René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Europe' Category

MännerMitÄhre in Rovinj 2009: Istrian East Coast

Whilst sitting in my hotel in Amsterdam, it’s time for a little re-cap from the yearly outbreak which my best friends from school and I have been establishing in the last 8 years: Going to my home in Rovinj (Croatia) and just letting go. We have know each other for more than 20 years by now, and it is amazing to see that it doesn’t take more than the blink of an eye to regress into the same sort of collective behaviour we were displaying when we were 16 :-)

Here is the picture set on Flickr we are for the official group picture of MännerMitÄhre with the neat marine-blue uniform.

MännerMitÄhre in Croatia

Apart from having a good time in general, playing tennis and eating well in particular, last Sunday we were out for a nice excursion on the Eastern coast of Istra, the northern Croatian peninsula where I to my own dismay have never been.

View Larger Map

We were heading on the expressway towards Pula, from there up again to Labin, a historic town with a clock tower which offers beautiful view into the surrounding landscape as well as Rabac (see here, with the island Cres in the background)

Labin in Croatia

Rabac could theroretically be beautiful, but it’s not. The favourable setting on a secluded piece of beach is entirely overshadowed by one of the ugliest excesses of socialist architecture geared to attract package tourism. Rabac is a place to stop by for an hour and then quickly continue northwards on the Magistrale road with impressive views of the Kvarner Bay. Here I dug out a video from our last year’s MännerMitÄhre vacation in Croatia, where I was flying-pilot of a chartered Cessna 172 with Juri on board filming:

The true splendor of Istra with its history of the K&K Habsburg-Empire becomes palpable in Lovran, and even more so in it’s bigger sister 8 km north Opatija. Its architecture narrates stories of the times when the Austrian Emperor as well as Sissy came here to do something good for their health – something that plenty of physicians hurried to attribute to the very special climate of the place.True or not, Opatija boasts an amazing seaside perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.


Hence, there couldn’t be a better place for MännerMitÄhre for a memorable good time in 2009 and we are already planning for and looking forward to Rovinj 2010.


Indian Consulate in Munich: Back to the Future

Just attended a colourful evening in the Indian Consulate in Munich where my own India story began. Back in 2003 when I had a dream and a business plan to move to India, it was exactly this Consulate General that provided me with the critical guidance. Information about the country, the regulatory environment, practical advise on company-establishment, apostille for foundation-documents and last but not least the visa. I felt already 6 years back that the consulate provided an outright proactive “service” to help me execute on my plan, far beyond the level of expectation.

Therefore, it was almost something like “back to the future” when I gratefully accepted the invitation to tonight’s function which was an initiative of the Consul General and Mohammad Rehan to bring together the Indian community in Munich. Community in the broadest sense of the word: Obviously Indians in Munich, but also Germans and other nationals from Munich who are dealing with India in the professional context. Anup Mudgal, the Consul General and host of the evening, expressed his confidence that no matter which results will turn out of the general election on Monday, India was firmly set to maintain its course of economic openness.

Mr. Mudgal put India in its historic context of century-old openness towards other cultures which I feel are indeed a coining tenet of even daily life on the subcontinent. Whenever India was geared to openness and freedom, it succeeded, Mr Mudgal said. India has indeed fostered long-standing relations with Europe, where Germany has been one of the most important trade partners in terms of trade volume and investment. Siemens for instance helped build the first telephone line between Kolkata and Europe.

All in all, a good opportunity to bring together the ties of globalization from the “other end” in Munich, which used to be my own starting point before I “changed the side”. Likewise, I met an Indian entrepreneur tonight who set up his company in Munich. It is touching to witness how in parallel to cherished local cultures, there is indeed more and more emerging something like an inclusive globalized culture in our world.

Italy-Trip: Stylish Milan – Picturesque Pavia

Milan is the undisputed style capital of Italy, as I could tell last night by going out for the typical Apertivo with Michele Casucci, a former colleague of mine from Lycos Europe and now successful entrepreneur of, among others, Certilogo. Going out to Noon, Aperitivo is a phenomenal invention where I wonder why it hasn’t spread (tipping point and stuff … ;-) all over the world. This is how it works: Basically you pay only for the drinks, like a Negroni for EUR 8, but with it comes the bar covered with all-you-can eat finger-food like cheese, sausages, olives, pizza-slices. Which basically replaces dinner in a very unassuming way. At least equally yummy comes just standing around and spotting the beauty of Italian women who especially in stylish Milan put a lot of emphasis on grooming themselves. Nothing to object about that either …

Today then, I drove down first to Lacchiarella to attend the first communion of my first goddaughter Linda, who has with almost 9 years grown to a gorgeous extremely well-mannered young lady. Lunch which spread almost up to dinner took place in Pavia, a stunning ancient town in Lombardy which is known for one of the oldest universities in Italy.

Old Town of Pavia

The day before yesterday, I twittered proudly that my weight for the first time after 4 years had come down to below 90 kg. After today’s eating-orgy in a delicious fish restaurant where there was no end to various antipasti, primo, secondo piatto and cake I feel like I must be again above – 100 kg … ;-)

Landed in San Francisco: Stunning Lufthansa Service

I couldn’t be luckier for today’s flight LH 454 where I just landed in one of my most favoured cities, San Francisco. Bought myself an Economy Class ticket, used my abundance of miles for an upgrade to Business and checking into the Lounge in Frankfurt, I got a free upgrade to First Class. And yes, the Flugröserl was in the game again :)

Surely, this is not a lucky draw in the lottery, but based on my HON Circle-status, but I appreciate these gestures from Lufthansa a lot. Maybe, therefore, I am a bit biased, but overall flying Lufthansa like crazy in the last 3.5 years between the continents, I feel that it is time to express a thank for the splendid work the airline does.

Jumbo Jet Boing 747

It doesn’t come by surprise that – based on “good old Germany virtues” – Lufthansa consistently ranks high at safety, reliability and punctuality. But those same virtues culture-wise were not always prone to outstanding service, it’s usually not what Germans are like. Slightly on the brush side of life, the understanding of service falls short in the scale of galaxies what one finds in India, Singapore, Thailand or Japan. There, serving a customer is culturally considered an honour.

Hence, it deserves even more hail that Lufthansa grew above itself to be not only significantly better than average German service, but even on the many instances on the ground, but especially on board, truly exceptional. Gone are the times (which I remember) where a bitchy flight attendant would almost throw the tray with the meal in front of you.

Admittedly, passengers in Business and First Class pay more to get better service. But my point is that you can’t buy friendliness, attention and charm when it’s not in a company’s DNA, when you have the wrong people or you have the right people and over time in a  bad organisation they degrade to jerks. In my perception, Lufthansa has worked hard to change its DNA. In some instances I spoke to flight attendants off the records where they told me about their training in general and the briefings before every flight in particular. The purser would remind the cabin crew that it’s them who will make a difference in choosing Lufthansa over a competitor and make a lasting impact on the experience. So there seems to be a system of deliberate effort behind, and to me it seems that the system is bearing fruit.

There are many aspects of outstanding service, but it come most in the shade of getting something which you did not expect: Like today I chose for my meal a French wine, the flight attendant asked me if I was sure not to go for the Chilenean one. I stayed with my choice, but he came back to me smiling after two minutes with a sip with the one from Chile just to give me a try.

I don’t intend to celebrate my middle-age-wine-decadency with such an example; it’s just illustrating how small unexpected gestures can make a difference in delighting a customer. Today and in the last months and years I have seen a couple of these instances where Lufthansa’s staff has gone, or rather, flown that extra mile for me. Thanks. ist live

Web 2.0 macht vor keiner Nische halt. Jetzt wird auch die Hochkultur davon überrollt bzw. davon aufgerollt, und zwar mit einer neuen Plattform

Wie der Name schon suggeriert, dreht sich alles um Kultur, und zwar in der ganzen Spannweite von Musik, Literatur und Film. Wie ich auch gut unterrichteten Kreisen erfahren habe, wird demnächst auch Kunst, Design, Architektur und Bühne hinzukommen.

Eine erste Vorauswahl wird von der Redaktion getroffen, dann macht die Community weiter und kann CDs, Bücher und Filme bewerten und empfehlen.

Collectively collapsing all Rules at Carnival

After all my successful years of abstinence, I got drawn in this time. Into the weird proceedings of carnival in Germany. Unfortunately, my friend Arnd exploited a weakness of mine which was asking me if I wanted to join him and some friends to the unique, unparalleled und world-famous carnival in Cologne. It took me around 10 seconds to accept. And there we were for “Altweiberfastnacht“, the brave sailors after an exhausting trip on the seven seas ready to go on land (pictures here).

Leichtmatrosen Benninghoff und Seifert

The unbelievable thing is that over the last 5 days of the carnival season, the city is basically  in a state of emergency. Nobody works, don’t even try to call someone up for business and everybody in the street is in one form of disguise or the other.

Everyone in Costume for Carnival in Colgne

I don’t intend to bore the death out of you by intellectualizing the sheer fun. But I found the social dynamics of something like carnival extremely insightful. Also I realized that quite a few “cultures” (in a simplified usage of the term) have something which carries some similar properties. For instance, Oktoberfest in Munich, Holi in India or Springbreak in the U.S. Or yesterday, I went to another carnival-event, “Fasching” as it is called in Bavaria, thanks to an invitation of the “Münchner Sozietät”, slightly changed my dress and went as both Barack and Hussein ;-) – pictures here

Faschingsball "Münchner Sozietät"

What I mean that for some pre-defined period of time, the usual collective rules seem to collapse. Those underlying values of proper behaviour which we deem essential for the very functioning of our social fabric. Just gone, right through the chimney. People drink in a way where they make sure everyone realize, personal distance among strangers disappear and the approachability between genders raise exponentially.

It was interesting to watch in Cologne’s pub how apparently new acquaintances were polishing each other’s tonsils in a matter of minutes – thereby seemingly reinforcing the communal cohesion for the rest of the year ;-) Moreover during carnival, the very nature of being in a costume creates an alter ego which allows for acting in a parallel self which can’t be held accountable for these unintentional occurrences.

Ultimately, hey, when everyone is doing it, nobody can be blamed. Hence, the state of emergency becomes just a normality. Essential, however, is the common notion of this “pre-defined period of time” where everyone can go berserk before knowing exactly where the point is when it’s time for the reboot.

Thanks for your Birthday Wishes from St. Moritz

My dear friends,

Although it’s what I do every day for my living, I feel that we have truly crossed the tipping point where we can cordially stay closer in touch than ever regardless where we are and what we do with all the tools of social architecture which are at our fingertips.

Many thanks to the many warm birthday wishes from India, Germany, Croatia, the U.S. and some other countries I might not even be aware of. I am deeply humbled and touched that you have been thinking of me. My little thank you comes as a video from the Piz Nair at 3057 meters altitude. It’s here in St. Moritz that I spend my birthday today.

Will have a glass of “let’s see what gets poured” tonight on your health :-) Hope to see you soon in person again.

Warm regards from Switzerland

P.S.: Read something very funny recently: How do you know that you are getting old? –> When you remember the Dead Sea still being sick – LOL

Videos of my DLD Panels “E-Commerce” & “Mobile” live

So here we are with the videos which got taped last week during the two sessions I moderated during the DLD in Munich at the new format “Technology Enables Success”.

Panel “E-Commerce”

Panel “Mobile”

Link: Mobile - Panel 3 - TES

Thanks to all the great panelists with their profound knowledge and enthusiasm which they displayed during the conversation and which they display every day to run their businesses successfully.

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

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. 

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