René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Media' Category

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

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" :-)

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:

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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 :-)

Viren Khanna and the Internet changing Bangalore Nightlife

Internet penetration in India is still relatively low, only around 30 mn of the Indian 1.1 bn population are online, growing at a fast pace of 27 % p.a. Yet, as everything in India, one has to put things into a context before making a conclusion, one has to put a frame around what one ist going to say. The context that I'd like to narrow down is the increasingly affluent group of people who like going out for a good night's party in Bangalore. Indians usually in their 20s, and a bit elderly expats in their rather 30s (like me ;-). Although the "good night's party" in Bangalore is strangulated by a curfew at 11.30 pm including a no-dancing policy whose zeal of enforcement reminds me rather of the Islamic police in Iran that in the allegedly "biggest democracy in the world", one thing has changed for the better in the last 1.5 years or so. 

Previously, due to the reason mentioned above, the entire nightlife was entirely fragmented across the various locations in Bangalore. No doubt, that there is nothing more boring that going to a bar or a club and having the impression to be almost the only guest. So today 23-year old Entrepreneur Viren Khanna seized the opportunity of aggregating the dispersed crowd. He made a deal with existing clubs and started to send out text messages to people of his address book on the mobile phone which he systematically grew with every event; a typical example of "building momentum". Since then, the so called "Viren-Parties" have become a synonym for "something is happening" at least two times a week in Bangalore.

Viren Khanna

In a not surprising quest to grow his business, he went on to organize fashion shows. What is more, the platforms of communication got enhanced as well, getting into the Web 2.0, an environment that the mentioned target group is very familiar with. For one, a group called "Viren's Nightlife Group – Blitzkrieg" on Facebook with 789 members at the time of my writing. For second, in order to provide a higher level of proprietary branding, a social network of its own, "The Ives Club". 

Positioned as a club for interns, trainees and expats in Bangalore, I was astonished in the first place about the technological sophistication of it and wondered what huge effort it would have taken it to engineer this monster. When I digged deeper into the souce code, it dawned on me that the platform entirely uses Ning, which allows you to "create a social network for anything". Co-Founded by Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape in the 90s, Ning is an amazing example of the Über-Plattform, as Marc elaborately explains in his blog-post on "The three kinds of platforms you meet on the internet". When I asked Viren how long it took to build The Ives Club based on Ning , he replied "It did not take me much long to stitch this thing together, but it did take me an extremely long time and a lot of fidgeting with CRM softwares, phpBB and 3 versions of it to find out about Ning and use it."

ives club

As the fundamentals of Web 2.0 go, these services become better the more people use them. So besides just having a distibution channel to annouce further events, the members among each other begin to interact before and after the events. So the shy ones for instance get the opportunity to address a girl onlline which they have failed to do while seeing her "in da club". Subject to some positive response he will be able catch up during the next party and prove that is is not that shy, though … 

I joined MumbaiAngels: Private Equity investments in India

 What I wanted to briefly write about already in the last few weeks is my engagement in an amazing group of entrepreneurs and top-executives in Bombay (Mumbai): The MumbaiAngels. What we would call a “Verein” in Germany, has the shape of an association of currently 40 individuals who have an interest in investing their money in prospective start-ups and early-stage companies in India.

The association has been set up one year ago, spearheaded by my friend Sasha Mirchandani who is a seasoned entrepreneur and currently the Head of India for BlueRun Ventures. How MumbaiAngels works is easily explained: We meet every 6 weeks in Bombay and three to five pre-selected companies would pitch in front of us: 15 minutes sharp followed by a friendly but critical Q&A-session by the potential investors. Each angel is entirely free to express independently interest in a particular company through a feedback form. At the end all the forms get aggregated internally whereby the level of interest in a particular company could (and maybe should) also help as an indicator of attractiveness from the “wisdom-of-crowds” perspective.

In the next step, say if 9 people have interest in a particular company, they would go along for a joint due diligence, deal structure into which each individual would invest the amount of money he or she wants to commit. Overall, from my experience of building up an incubator, I am quite impress about the level of maturity for the processes which are critical to come to terms from filtering interesting investment targets to having the investment in place.

The sectors we are looking at have not been defined too narrow, and right so. Ultimately, it should be something that scales well, because it either organizes and unstructured industry in India with its huge market potential behind, addresses a clear need or something which contains a technology-driven nucleus whose economics are prone to disproportionately fast distribution and foreseeable revenues. (My personal investment-appetite goes very much to the latter, certainly because I have some sort of expertise in the tech, media, internet and mobile-space.)

The advantage for entrepreneurs seeking for investments to address Mumbai Angels is manifold: The investors involved bring extensive experience in building and growing business to the table, where the Q&A session during the pitch alone can ask the right questions to tweak and turn something in the plan or model. Moreover, MumbaiAngels are far beyond just throwing “dumb money” at you, then sitting on our hands and waiting what returns we’ll receive. What we are looking for is an active role via ongoing mentoring, door-opening to customers or partners and access to capital for the subsequent rounds of funding.

I am glad to be part of that fine group. If you are an entrepreneur seeking start-up capital for a venture in the Indian market, feel free to address me. I will see what I can do for you and what I can do for us – the MumbaiAngels.

Bryan Adams in Zurich: 7 Steps for a powerful PR-Campaign

Its neutrality, order and cosiness alone make Switzerland a worthwhile place to visit again and again. Moreover, Zurich with its 380,000 inhabitants small by usual cosmopolitan standards has a flourishing cultural life. The ubiquitously visible wealth of the city is certainly not an impediment to it. Yesterday, it was Bryan Adams who had a sold-out concert in Zurich whereby his management accurately planned a PR-appearance beforehand. The venue, Puls 5, is a worn down industrial manufacturing hall with high ceilings and old steel structures all which creates an honest ambience for an exhibition.

CIMG2631

The event “Hear the World” has been touring around various cities in the world for quite a while and is an initiative of Phonak, a Swiss manufacturer of hearing aids. From my own 15-year old experience in media, this concept definitely hails in the upper range of PR-formats. What most companies get wrong in PR is a too aggressive push of their company name or worse, its products. Phonak did well to put the emphasis on an issue which allegedly affects 15-20 % of global population: hearing problems, along with the stigma not really admitting to the problem or worse, not doing something about it.

As I write these lines, I realize how well this event platform was crafted: I never thought about the problem before, I even doubt that these numbers are in their severity as high or that this is one of the most daunting problems of this world today, but nevertheless the event left some sort of impact on me thinking and even blogging about the issue. That’s what you call successful agenda-setting which deserves at least professional respect.

The ingredients for the event could hardly be hand-picked any better:

  1. Take an issue worth alleviating (see paragraph above).

  2. Engage a VIP who is unsuspicious of being a sponsor-whore for everything: In this case Bryan Adams, a world-famous rock star who builds bridged between continents and generations alike and who – for his age of 48 years – looks extremely juvenile. Furthermore, what I was not aware of, Bryan Adams is also a highly talented photographer which brings us to the next point.

    Bryan Adams

  3. Make the issue tangible: Connect with the VIP, whereby keeping the message subtle: Bryan Adams has taken a series of pictures with musicians where he asked them if they would pose for something which reflects them hearing or listening. Apart from one (name undisclosed) all agreed and there you go with an exhibition of artistic big-sized black-and white photographs.

    CIMG2657

  4. Deliver immediate remedy: As these photographs are unique, they are or have been already auctioned off with the income going directly to several schools and institutions in the third world dealing with children who have hearing problems.

  5. Create an event-platform: The exhibition is open till Sunday, yet the gala-opening was clearly a highlight where Bryan Adams showed up himself, albeit with app. 10 minutes only very briefly, stating “no interview” and buggering off to his concert. Yet, if you have Bryan Adams for such an event, all the VIPs and wannabe VIPs will come all by themselves. Apparently, the hall must have been full with Swiss actors, models and celebrities (which I admittedly did not recognize). Food and drinks were excellent, too.

  6. Roll out the red carpet, literally: The presence of these VIPs will in turn attract the press which will thankfully cover such an event with many, many nice pictures its audience wants to see. (No wonder, the day after 2 major Zurich tabloids had the event and Bryan Adams on the front-page).

    CIMG2632

  7. Keep a low profile as the initiator: Phonak knows pretty well that 80 % of the people in this world long for its products as much as they long for Malaria. Yet, when they need it, they will notably improve their lives. Hence, the CEO of the company on stage was quite up-front to admit: “We want to create awareness for a problem that nobody wants to hear and talk about.”

That’s it. Good event, nice motives for pictures also from my side here on the Flickr-Set and myself last but not least looking at Amy and Amy looking at me.

CIMG2681

And what I now do hear very loud and clear is my friends calling for another round of Oktoberfest :-)

8W8: Taking Globalization and the Internet to the next Level

8W8 Global Space TribesYesterday evening in Munich I listened to a speech from the CEO of Boston Consulting Group Hans-Peter Bürkner about "globalization", an issue that has my natural affinity. Yet, the speech as such I found rather "moderately novel" as its main lines of thought were put forward by Thomas Friedman already 3 years ago in “The World is Flat”. Especially, Mr. Bürkner's part about the role of governments was more of wishful thinking than a reality-based account on the true interests of such a body which is depending on a free electorate.

Anyway, in case someone is interested on more vision and foresight in terms of "what's next" on the global scene, being addressed from an entirely different angle in the shape of a novel, I happily recommend 8W8. The author is Ralf Hirt whom I met in January after moderating the India-panel at the DLD-conference in Munich. It's instrumental to understand the background of Ralf to become clear on both his motivation and insight: He has held leadership positions in the internet industry for a decade and has lived all over the world, in his home town Stuttgart, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and currently New York. In crossing these two lines of experience extrapolating their status-quo plus visioning with lots of foresight, he conceived his first book 8W8. It is worthwhile mentioning that the book is indeed fiction, yet the concept of a "new world modelling engine" are not so far away that this book would fall into the category of "science fiction".

Well, what is it about? The storyline deals with 15 high calibre people from of the "Golden Sky", a community committed with the aspiration to change the world for the sake of good. These 15 people come from a whole array of diverse backgrounds, like Oskar Feller, an editor for a leading internet magazine, Maria who is a doctor developing high-scale programmes to fight HIV/AIDS, Priyanka from India who is an IT-crack working for a global media company or Emanuel, a philosopher and Taoist who has been named for the Nobel Prize. All the characters of the story are here on the 8W8-blog. This group of people is hosted by Winston Chee, a billionaire internet-entrepreneur from China in his island on Hawaii EA-RA.

In this serene and secluded environment, the 15 brains spend a whole week picking each other brains and inspiring each other to solve one crucial problem: How to make the interrelations of economies and people visible in a sort of virtual map-overlay on top of the existing geography. What they come up with is the new world modelling engine "8W8" which can be pictured as a virtual helicopter the "pilot" would use to fly over the terrain of the earth to make these invisible connections visible. Delving even deeper into the concept it transcends into a new form of radical constructivism as the vision the pilot would receive on his dashboard would be a crossover between absolute measurable truths and his set of values/selective perception. What the pilot would get to see is both on “earth level” and on “sky level” the “volumes” of a whole set of parameters. The former range from hard factors like population, GNP, metrics on infrastructure, public institutions to innovation, the latter comprise for example metrics for democracy, human rights, quality of living, level of terrorism and such.

Yet, what is more that beyond statistics on GNP or PPP which are available as top-level data today, 8W8 equally entails a bottom-up approach from the level of the “element” (individual) which will aggregate in “streams” into “Global Space Tribes” according to its interest, e.g. “MBA Jazz Wireless Tribe (MBAJWT)”, “Catholic Fast Food Blue Collar Single Mother of Four (CFFBCSMF)” or the “Taoist Tribe (TT)”. These become even more interesting if one looks at actual vertically positioned Web 2.0 platforms which either try to bring a community of like-minded people together like “Dogster” or provide a tool to define and organize a target group of any shape like Ning. Yet, both of these platforms have in common that they require someone to become a “member” by “registration” and do all these various steps actively online. In that context I do believe that there will be not in too far future a kind of “ambient computing” where the unconscious behaviour patterns will be able to bring people in a meaningful way together. Hence, aggregating this sort of behaviour and making it somehow visible is not that far away from 8W8’s concept of the “Global Space Tribe”.

One thing I had hoped throughout the whole story to occur, is a bit more of conflict, friction, sex: As Oskar and Theresa, a computer scientist, seem to come along very well, I waited for that forbidden kiss, the clandestine quickie to happen under the waterfall of perfectly pristine EA-RA. Not for the sake of sensation, but to portray people regardless of their brains and social status when they become most human: emotional to the extent of irrational. The figures appear prim and proper, and at best tease each other lightly in order to surely succumb to perfect harmony. Irrespective of that, what I liked from a storytelling point of view is the ability to portray a broad set of global citizens who find a common denominator to discuss a topic, be focussed in defining a goal, accepting each other’s variety of viewpoints, being non-judgemental and fully embark on the beneficial concept of diversity.

Altogether, I liked the book a lot as it is coherently able to explain the road ahead in globalization by the force of the internet and the road ahead of the internet by the force of globalization. What gave me food for thought via the concepts of “Global Space Tribes” was the decreasing influence of governments, because free people in a free world are able to cross-pollinate their ideas and aspirations regardless of the strangulating rigidity of what we call a country today.  For someone like me who happily articulates his despise of today’s governments, the vision of 8W8 is one which deserves active pursuit.

Who is interested in buying the book, Amazon has it, either in print or for the Kindle.  

Guest at SeoFM.com in Munich: SEO-Outsourcing to India

All my 10 years of being a radio-presenter till 2003 slightly re-appeared yesterday night when I was guest at the radio show at SeoFM.com, a weekly online-format of Germany's leading Search-Engine-Optimizers (SEOs) Marcus Tandler (a.k.a. Mediadonis ) and his "partner in crime" Ralf Götz (a.k.a. Fridaynite). It's a one hour talk format which is about the latest development/gossip from the SEO-scene mixed with a lot of infantile jokes – to which I contributed gladly :-) In addition, Mediadonis interviewed my on my business of offshore outsourcing to India for projects revolving around SEO, which could be either building some content-centred apps, some BPO driven tasks for e.g. ad-campains or content-production. Here is the link to the show for time-shifted listening (German language).

So one after the other:

  • Sure, surprise, surprise, India is good at software engineering, yet as I have written already on this blog a few times, it's always a number game, hence: If you have 5 people for at least 3 months, it's worth considering. The more and the longer – the better.
  • For BPO also big numbers pay off and it always will be much easier, maybe only feasible, if the task is not to a large degree dependant on German language.
  • Content-production can work, again in English language. The challenge will be in recruiting and quality assurance, and again, will only pay off with scale.

Mediadonis charmingy titled this show "Rent a Jobkiller", no wonder as I had explained plainly : "My business model rests on two pillars: One is slashing German jobs and increasing unemployment, the other exploiting poor Indians and taking away their future". As there are really people who argue such nonsense with fully conviction, I have made it a virtue to repeat it ironically as often as possible …

10 Years Ahead: Vision from Innovative Market Research

Came along this very interesting observation from Delphi , an "innovative market researcher" from Germany who is looking today at society in 2017. The focus is Germany with a tangible bullet-point list on the various aspect of change, like my favourites

  • The retreating state prompts an enhanced self-responsibility of the individual for health, private pensions, continuous education, etc.
  • It is about "re-conquering" one’s own sovereignty about when and where to make a decision.
  • People start interpreting the gaps and blanks of the retreating state as their own creative spaces: empowerment instead of accepting deficits.
  • To reach their goal of a self-determined life, people form situational alliances: cooperation, dialogue and networking are the key principles people will live by.
  • The "New Social Responsibility" combines public spirit and self-interest in a win-win-situation.

Other countries in Europe, but also Russia and the United States are displayed here. Not too surprisingly, globalization gets perceived predominantly as a threat where the reaction ranges from patriotism to denial to retreat into the local community. Looking a bit at the comparison between Germany and the other countries, my old joke seems to get confirmed that fortunately Germany in its own shitty state maintains with France and Italy two other countries it can still look down to ;-)

Overall I picked those 5 bullet-points above as I feel they reflect pretty well my own values according to which I try to live in 2008. My disbelief in Vater Staat (=Father Goverment, as a German proverbs tend to say) is tremendously profound and although the strangulation by tax and even more tax, besides other intrusions, are not coming to an end, people with sufficient flexibility will make their own choices about where and how they want to live and follow the old valid principle "You better have a plan for yourself, before someone else has his plan for you".

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