René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Language Selection' Category

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.

Funny to sick Videos from our 7 Dwarves India-Trip

Errr, I guess there was still something. It’s already one week back that the 7 dwarves finished their 7 days in South India with a memorable trip through Bangalore, Goa and Kerala. Here we are all together on the famous Wednesday flee market of Anjuna.

The 7 Dwarfs in Goa: Anjuna Flee Market

Who wants to have at all the pics, here we are, as usual I put them together on a Flickr-set. But as the tradition goes, when Dirk (“The Schornsteininger”) and I get together on the road, we produced also some new moving pictures. For one, some footage which I took back in January now found the day of light after Dirk put his magic on it with extremely neat production-technique. The “G Wave”, G for “Gay”. This one goes out to all the Indian men holding hand in the streets.

Then, fast reverse December 2008 in Dubai, the “Howard Seifendale” was born, with his first appearance “Räkling” (=lolling) in the lobby of the Raffles Dubai.

Now, the Seifendale 2009 is back. For the first time together with the Schornsteininger in front of the camera, and the “Räkling” gets more intense as ever before. Right there in the sand of Goa with leaving a legacy of sacred inscripts for the future generations to come.

I was never shy of making an idiot out of myself, but I believe even for my standards I hit a new high or low – however you like ;-)

Inauguration: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya – connected

We could only get here together. Today was with fullest honesty one of the happiest days of my life. When I started to conceive this project, I had a remote idea of how the picture of its accomplishment would look like. It would look like this.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

All the pictures of the inauguration here on my Flickr-set. Today we solemnly celebrated in the traditional Indian way the inauguration of something new. This novelty felt like two well crafted pieces of a puzzle came together to form a harmonious whole. One the one side, the phenomenal preparation of the Vatsalya team with setting up the room, installing broadband internet connection and putting tables with chairs in place. From the other side the delivery and installation of the Wipro netbooks. Plug and play. And it just worked. Connected to the internet, connected to view through this window of the word. From Bangalore to anywhere. Therefore, to symbolize these limitless possibilities, I set Wikipedia in English as the home page on each of the 12 browsers.

Hand-Over of Netbooks: Vatsalya Orphanage

We started out in the afternoon with some more technical installation by Sumanth and Arvind. Thanks for taking time out and supporting us with your technology expertise.

Run-up to the Inauguration

It was a special pleasure for me to have my good friend Dirk Schornstein back in Bangalore, also one of the donors for the charity, who couldn’t resist the call from his first visit in December last year when the girls told him for good bye “Come back, Uncle!”. He kept his promise and brought a present which the girls had wished for: The entire collection of Harry Potter in the children’s edition.

Run-up to the Inauguration

Indians truly understand how to elevate such an event onto a spiritual level so that it is perceived and will be remembered as something special. The girls started to get more and more exited …

Run-up to the Inauguration

… when at 4.30 pm we cut the ribbon …

Cutting the Ribbon: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

… and lit the holy light with offerings to the God Ganesha, prayers and chanting by the children.

Lighting the Fire: Inauguration

Then nothing could stop the girls, always in groups of 12, to sit down on the chair in front of the computers and put their little fingers for the first time in their lives onto the touchpads and see the pointer move on the screen in front of them. I will never forget their genuine joy and curiosity.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

I am extremely happy to share these impressions with everybody who contributed to this project, dedicated money, time and moreover trust. In the hope not to forget anybody:

  • The 28 donors around the world who laid the indispensable financial ground.
  • The Vatsalya-team, my dear neighbour and almost sister Shashi as well as the entire board of the association who relentlessly pushed ahead from their side.
  • Wipro for the generous discount of the netbooks and its exemplary professionalism and reliability in each and every step of the process.
  • Petra (=”Petzi”) who did invaluable research work with project coordination along with her husband Jürgen.
  • And last, but not least, the 50 girls from the Vatsalya Children’s Home. Your yearning for a future provided me the momentum forward.

To all of you: This is your day. Thank you.

Good Progress with Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

Things are starting to fall into place. Today, I am happy to give you an update on a project and gladly include a host of “thank yous” and acknowledgements into a variety of directions which brought us significantly further. As things often go, especially in India, being connected to the right people can make a lot of things happen.

Let me start with proposing the budget allocation for the project. In the beginning I was a bit naive to just think of raising funds only for the computers, whereas there is a whole underlying infrastructure layer beneath in order to create a real functioning “solution”. Hence, the plan is to spend the donations as follows:

Budget Vatsalya Charity

UPS, by the way is the abbreviation for “Uninterrupted Power Supply”, a connected battery system to bridge the frequent power outages in Bangalore. (The spreadshirt above is also live here on Google Docs, select the link “Budgeting” on top of the page.)

As we see, there are some EUR 250 left which we plan to use prudently for some unexpected cost. Either use it for funding another year of broadband internet or as the basis for additional computers once this first solution is in a steady state. Nothing will be wasted to unnecessary expense. Promised.

Now to address with greatest happiness the bricks which have fortunately built upon each other to form the emerging building of our solution:

  • During the “Global India Business Meeting” in June this year in Munich I got to know Mr. Girish Paranjpe, the Co-CEO of the India IT-giant Wipro. I presented our project to him via e-mail and asked if Wipro would be willing to support it with a reduced rate compared to the regular retailing price. As a professional and successful organisation like Wipro works, I got a fast response from Girish. Moreover, a generally positive one along with passing the project on to his colleagues Mr. Ashok Tripathy and Mr. Sankar Pitchaiya. Therefore, I am super-happy to announce that Wipro will deliver its netbook “Wipro e.go 7F3800” to us beginning of October at a special charity rate. Wipro e.go 7F3800
    The notebook contains a couple of cool cutting-edge innovative features. Also: With it comes full- fledged solution with an established customer care-backbone in case of ever anything breaks. Thank you so much, gentlemen from Wipro, for supporting us!
  • Horst Joepen, CEO of Searchmetrics, and former co-founder of Webwasher (later aquired by McAfee), referred me to his former colleague Martin Stecher who granted us a free test-license for the Webwasher. This piece of software is supposed to filter out that sort of stuff from the web which girls between 5 and 15 years need not get in touch with. Thank you very much indeed for your support.
  • I love technology, but I never claimed to be an engineer. So in order to get the IT-infrastructure in the orphanage up and running with setting up a client-server architecture, installing the Webwasher, connecting it to the internet, Sumanth Sudheendra is volunteering us to take this into his precious and experienced technology-hands. Thanks Sumanth for allocating your free time for the good cause.
  • Last but not least, the Vatsalya Orphanage has also been active to set the ground for the advent of the computers. As I just talked to my neighbour Shashi on Saturday: The required fast DSL-broaband internet-connection has been installed by the provider BSNL at a flat-rate. Also, the simple furnishing with tables and chairs is about to arrive these days. Thanks for following up so promptly on all these action items!

Overall, things are looking good at this stage and I am very optimistic. What is going to happen next: We are looking at October 7th as the delivery date for the computers which we will connect and make operational as fast as possible. I will keep you posted.

And once more: Sincere thanks everybody for your support for making this happen :-)

MännerMitÄhre: Comradeship climbing Germany’s Zugspitze

It’s been 4 days back, but I still have to think every day about our once-in-a-lifetime experience. Rainer, Stephan, Werner and me, four MännerMitÄhre, started out on in Ehrwald at 1,200 meters to climb Germany’s highest mountain: The Zugspitze (2,962 meters). All pictures of the tour here on Werner’s and my Flickr-sets.

From Ehrwald uphill

This tour was a far cry from a spontaneous mood of the day. The idea came up some three months ago during a joint beergarden evening. My feelings towards the project were ambiguous in the beginning as I never claimed to be overly sportive, I’ve never been. By contrast, it is safe to say that the other three comrades are “machines”: ski-tours, triathlons, mountain-biking as regular their pastimes. Hence, the last three months to the very date were for me (not for them) filled with intense preparation: running and whenever possible climbing up some mountain which would stand in the way. The other guys called this my “angst-training” :-)

Climb towards Zugspitze

In the bottom line, the fitness came to be just enough to master this tour which for me has been the most strenuous thing I’ve done since the army almost 20 years back. But it was equally one of the coolest, most rewarding things I have ever done. The physical strain in combination with the effect working one’s path step by step higher, witnessing the vegetation withdraw and the landscape resembling that of the moon till finally reach the summit, is one thing.

The true spirit of the mountain, however, derives from the collective will to make it together. From the necessity to rely on each other in case of any incident. And from cherishing the moment once you made it up to the summit together.

MännerMitÄhre on the Summit of the Zugspitze (2962 m)

When Werner right there pulled out his flask with the apricot-schnapps and passed it along, it was one of those rare honest MännerMitÄhre-moments in life. In comparison to plenty of networking-events I do attend, this setting was entirely devoid of any mutual commercial interest or a hidden agendas, but entirely dedicated to our honest comradeship.

I believe the world needs more MännerMitÄhre. Us four will be back for a mountain-tour latest next year, whereas our starting point Ehrwald should be renamed into Ährwald ;-)

What we can or should learn from China

I am still in complete awe from what I have seen in what was my first visit ever to China. A very compact programme in 10 days: Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Moganshan. All the pictures of the trip here on my Flickr-set. This would not have been possible without the valuable recommendations of several friends who have stayed for quite some time in China and shared their experience with me where to stay, where to go and – yes, big time – where to eat :-)

Dinner in South Beauty

In particular I’d like to thank Katharina Kurz, Heidi Klocker, Frank Richter and Ralf Hirt. Really appreciate the time and effort you took to write your advise together.

As much as I try to fight this tendency, perhaps it’s just human, I couldn’t help come with a package of pre-conceived notions to the Middle Kingdom. As always, reality turned out completely different: I was consistently positively surprised about the country, its people, the ubiquitously palpable momentum forward.

First Impressions of Beijing

As tons of books and articles have been written about what goes wrong in China from its human rights-record,  Tibet-policy, cuddling-up with dictators from Sudan to Myanmar,  being the protégé of North Korea, massive environmental problems, censorship, bullying of countries who oppose its stance. I don’t intend to start repeating them. I’d just like to make clear that I do agree in varying degrees with them.

However, I would like to leave the usual line of argument that whatever looks like success in China is only possible in the light of these shortcomings. More often than not, Western commentators indulge in such an average intellectual exercise in order to lean back in complacency and suggest to their audience (or rather themselves) that everything is perfectly OK how “we” do things.

My foot. I don’t intend to make a bulletproof case within the perimeters of a blog-post, especially not based on anecdotal evidence of a singular 10-day trip. However, I can warmly recommend this Economist-article from 4 weeks ago which vividly describes the rebound of Asia after the crisis from a macro perspective, China being one of the main beneficiaries. Most remarkably, there seems to indeed happen a de-coupling between the growth of the Asian tiger like China (with an expected to grow with 10 % in Q4 2009 year-on-year) and the U.S.-economy which is supposed to still contract. The article goes to conclude:

But the speed and strength of its rebound, if sustained, show that it is not chained to Uncle Sam either. If anything, the crisis has reinforced the shift of economic power from the West to the East.

Amen. So far for the overarching macro-trend which I’d like to mix with my personal observation of three countries I have been to in the last four weeks, again, insufficient for a scientific case, but maybe still not entirely off-track. Moreover, also one or the other thing to take a closer look for own application …

Progress
China prefers collective progress against the necessity to include each and every minority voice into a pluralistic debate that tends to not produce results. Moreover, the Chinese take pride in their achievements like the new International Airport in Beijing which has been inaugurated for the Olympic Summer Games last year. Indeed an amazing piece of architecture which sets new standards in size, design and functionality

Beijing Airport

What happens in Germany? Frankfurt Airport has been losing ground to international competition in the last decade, the build-out has been delayed from environmental groups, “Bürgerinitiativen” (=citizen initiatives) supported out-of-their mind courts who just a few days back ruled that the ban on night-flights be upheld.

Infrastructure
Come to Shanghai these days, which is running up to the World Expo 2010, and you’ll hear sledgehammers 24/7, the whole city as one single construction site being re-build based on a master-plan which can be viewed at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall:

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Plan

I was equally surprised to see the quality of train stations, multi-lane highway and overpasses in Hangzhou, a 6 mn-people city 200 km south of Shanghai.

By contrast, I was shocked when I arrived in San Francisco 3 weeks ago, took a rental car to drive down Highway 101 to San Jose. The state of the road reminded me more of a developing country than a traffic-vein running through the Silicon Valley, part of the highly recognized State of California in the United States of America.

Discipline
Chinese value accomplishment and have grasped the concept “no gain – no pain”. Military-like drill seems to be the norm in professions one would expect it least. The team at Beijing-airport responsible for check-in stood in line receiving their briefing for flight OS 064 to Vienna before starting their duty exactly as announced at 10.55 am. Even better, I couldn’t believe my eyes, when the train from Shanghai entered in Hangzhou station was “greeted” by 6 groups of 3 cleaners every 50 meters standing in line.

Arrival in Hangzhou: Cleaning Staff standing in Line

As soon as the train had stopped and the passengers disembarked, the ladies went on to quickly get the train ready for the return trip in Shanghai.

The fact that I know 100 per cent for sure that my German reader will shake their head in disbelief how someone (=me) finds positive words for such an “outdated inhuman treatment”, just illustrates pointingly how deep the cultural rift really is.

Respect for Public Space
Oh dear. This was the toughest part to witness, or in fact not to witness in China: cars can drive without honking and somehow (!) keep the lane, the pavements are not askew or full of potholes, nobody littering his garbage wherever it comes into existence and nobody urinating against walls in the middle of the city. I don’t intend to be neither mean nor cynical, when I say: If the Indian metropolitans in terms of infrastructure and civilized behaviour arrive in 30 years where China stands today, it should be considered an outstanding accomplishment.

Beijing: Bird's Nest

There is no paradise on earth, because every system comes with its imperfections. My personal favourite in terms of effective government is still by far Singapore as I went to write at length in this post two years ago. Maybe, also not just random, it’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew is Chinese by origin.

At the same time, I feel it’s worth showing some sort of reverence to the achievements of China, a country which has pulled itself out of deepest shit within 25 years. To see is to believe. And I can only encourage everybody to visit China to see yourself.

From Austria to China

After 2 days in Austria’s imperial capital Vienna, arrived yesterday after a yummy flight with Austrian Airlines in Beijing. Yummy flight, because Austrian Airlines entertains a real cook in its Business Class who fully played out his culinary art in 35,000 feet altitude.

The contrast couldn’t be any starker between the impressions from Austria and China. The capital of the former discounting a lot from its past, whereas the capital of the latter has fully embarking on its future.Without repeating stuff which everyone knows anyway about the political system in China, just interesting to note that in spite of staying in a hotel with many guests from the West, The Peninsula, internet-access to Facebook and Twitter are blocked (as are Wikipedia and XING). So please bear with me if I am not as flexible and in responding as I usually try to be. The only access I get is via my mobile phone – including the terrible roaming charges for my German number …

Just one last word from Vienna where I went into a very touching exhibition of Elisabeth of Austria, famously called “Sissy”, wife to the last emperor Franz Joseph. Sissy, who wasn’t any like a royal dumb-ass at all, was a sportive woman and also an avid writer, where I stumbled upon a line of her poems which resonated with me

Destinations are only desirable because a journey lies in between. If I arrived somewhere and knew I would never leave again, even a sojourn in paradise would turn into hell for me.

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