René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Offshoring' Category

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.

EO Event: Laying out Urban Planning 2020 for Bangalore

Finishing off the day after coming from an interesting EO learning event in Bangalore about “Balancing Urban Development and the Environment” with two distinguished speakers Rajeev Chandrashekar, independent Member of Parliament, as well as Suresh Hebilkar, famous Kannada-actor and director turned environmentalist.

Mr. Chandrashekar who has taken on the big challenge of fixing Bangalore’s rotten infrastructure conceded that it has started to decline from 2000 and since then only gone from bad to worse. Compounded by the influx of more and more migrants, Bangalore has grown in the last years to a 8 million population and is expected to accelerate its growth to become a mega-city of 16 mn by 2020. Without a complete change of direction in urban planning, or better the holistic introduction of such thing, a collapse on almost any infrastructural dimension seems inevitable.

For that, he has proposed a change of law which would incur three levels of governance: First, the creation of ONE binding urban plan which is missing today (as one can tell just by looking around), second the establishment of a coordinating body for the various agencies (which does not exist today) and a partial self-governance of the regional communities through a democratically elected institution (which has been in the last years replaced by faceless bureaucrats).

What I found remarkable: Fully acknowledging the problems with politics and moreover politicians in India, Mr. Chandrashekar prefers to work with the current institutions as opposed to founding his own party. The latter might appear as a natural choice for an accomplished businessman he has been in his life. But after learning the basics of politics, he explained: “In a democracy where everyone has a voice, yours has to be the loudest to be heard and followed.”

For that, he is trying to bring as many supporters as possible behind his bold plan.

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

Leadership Forum: How NASSCOM just doesn’t get 2.0

After the gala dinner “Salaam Mumbai” on Friday night, I made my way to the airport and had a relaxed night flight with Swiss Airline to Zürich where incidentally Rattan Tata was two seats away from me. The landscape here couldn’t pose a bigger contrast to the previous three days in hot and humid Mumbai. On the snow covered slopes of St. Moritz (Switzerland) I found some time and focus to reflect on the conference.

Piz Nair (3057 m) in St. Moritz

These three days at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2009 have – like my previous two attendances – been tremendously inspiring with phenomenal speakers like John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) as the starter and management guru C.K. Prahalad for the grand finale. Moreover, and that’s what I love deeply in Indian culture, if you know on Day 1 some people, on Day 3 you will know many people thanks to the cordial introductions which those some will make for you to the many. The strong impression which the evening events left on me, is the result of a long-term effort putting these choreographies for the shows with all the awards and dancers together. All fine, and I am quite sure I will attend next year again, that’s for the red cross in the calendar February 9th to 11th 2010.

Yet, and that’s where it really loses me, that in spite of the professional organization of the event, India’s IT-industry association NASSCOM simply doesn’t get it what this beast Web 2.0 or Communication 2.0 or Innovation 2.0 or however you want to name it, is about. Ironically, the two top-speakers I mentioned above where teaching and preaching how it works, what it means and how it positively impacts the outreach of an organization. Specifically, C.K. Prahalad mentioned in his talk that he sees a huge opportunity to consult companies in “social architecture”. NASSCOM should be the first customer.

So in my perception, NASSCOM is still stuck in the mindset: “Uuups, there is this something called Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 – and we have to do something with it.” The result: Applying the old mindset (which again Prof. Prahalad was pointing out as the biggest obstacle) onto these platforms and forcing the existing command & control structures of its organizations on these platforms. And it just hurts, because it just doesn’t work this way and thereby gets stuck in the old format (sorry for the blurred quality of the pic).

C.K. Prahalad: Impediments for Innovations

Examples:

  • NASSCOM is running “a blog”, hu-ha-hu a blog, how fancy does this sound with a few “bloggers” writing for it here and identifying themselves on the event with a badge “NASSCOM – I’m blogging” plus some through the audacity to have their hair grown over the tip of their ears. Nothing to object, but this has nothing at all to do with blogging. What NASSCOM in fact does, it hires a few people as editors, thereby controlling the message and pushing it “out to the world”. I wonder if the world cares when the oracle has spoken. (When I got the offer by Avinash Raghava from NASSCOM to “get an account also write for us”, I politely declined. I prefer to write what I think on my own blog.)
  • NASSCOM in on Twitter, check out what came out in the last three days of the conference under http://twitter.com/nilf2009: It’s nothing but pushing one-directionally micro-links of these same messages out. Moreover, using the account name NILF2009 carries a fundamental and obvious flaw: It terms that NASSCOM easily understands, it’s simply not “scalable” as for 2010, 2011 etc. there have to be a new accounts over and over again with losing all the old followers and starting from zero. If I was a cynic, I could argue: With the 36 follower at the time of writing no harm done. Note by the way, the absence of NASSCOM’s interest in conversing by only following back 10 people.

NILF 2009 Twitter

  • NASSCOM has set up a community “Emerge” of its own using CollectiveX to have its members and the delegates respectively interact on that platform beyond the face-to-face meetings. So far absolutely a right move. Yet, it stops exactly there as the old mindset dictates that one must own, control and monopolize the conversation. This platform is not bad at all, but it is not exactly the comfort that Facebook offers. So where is the Facebook-group of the conference where there are not just the better features for interaction, but more importantly where EVERYBODY is already around. When I asked new acquaintances on the conference after receiving their business cards if they were on Facebook, in 80 percent the answer was “yes”.
  • NASSCOM is taping all of the keynotes and most of the panels on video. Why in this world is there no channel on YouTube to put these treasures out? The same applies to the presentations where NASSCOM-president Som Mittal mentioned at the very end that most of them will be available for download. Thank you very much, had I known that before I would have not written my fingers off with taking notes. Just see this slide from John Chamber’s presentation on YouTube’s impact on his organization.

Cisco YouTube-Usage

  • NASSCOM, and that brings me to the last point, is acting in an era of connectedness entirely disconnected in all the separate, distinct and isolated silos of activity. The moderately talented moderator who regularly stumbles in just presenting what the presenter is going to present is of little help either in that context. Where are these closed feedback loops of someone qualified on stage continuously bring the pieces together?

But let’s take a step back and not get stuck in doing the same mistake of bashing single flaws here and simple formats there, but re-draw the big picture of what this all is about: It’s about providing the delegates with a profound and sustainable experience of the event in terms of learning, connecting and participating. Beyond that, the message should get out of the “echo chamber” and travel as far and as fast as possible to anybody who could be a relevant stakeholder. As part of a communication strategy, NASSCOM perfectly includes the press in the process. But here the story ends. Where NASSCOM entirely fails, is getting real word-of-mouth out by engaging into a CONVERSATION. A conversation by definition requires at least the same amount of listening as much as of talking yourself.

Attend a conference of O’Reilly like the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco next month (I will be there, too) and you see how it can be done differently by pulling all levers and connecting them. Attendants can twitter questions upfront which the moderator will use for his interview, he will suggest tags for pics and videos which will be uploaded etc. Furthermore, the conference organizers will invite impartial bloggers equal to traditional press which will, of course, write on their own blogs. The official conference-bloggers would read them, link to them, comment, retort, put things straight or, clearly, ignore trolls who are just out there for parasitic attention.

Or, visit the DLD-Conference in Munich where I moderated two panels a fortnight ago: There is a dedicated video-channel with all the panels. Also, from the organizers’ communication team someone will constantly watch what is being twittered in order to make improvements of the event “on the fly”.

Overall, if NASSCOM is serious about its efforts to move up the value chain towards products, it would require some colourful “Gondalization”, named after my friend Vishal Gondal from Indiagames, who won this year’s NASSCOM India Innovation Award for evangelizing his service in a novel way. Vishal was not the only one to wear an orange T-shirt in the dark ocean of seriousness. What is more, he has fully understood how Communication 2.0 works, he is a real blogger who has a tremendous network to leverage upon. This includes that NASSCOM would have to deal with posts like his Why Wipro, Infosys and TCS are “The Axis of Evil” for Indian start-up space which has garnered 120 comments. One of the major properties of Communication 2.0 is the ability to let go and have the network do the work from amplifying to correcting the message.

CIMG4308

It’s not about if Vishal in right in all he writes, or if I went too far with criticism in this post. That would be missing the point which John Chambers got so right as the bracket for this keynote: “If you agree in all I say, I have failed.” But listening to it from a position of equals is the starting point for a true conversation.

Indian Winter at 14° C warmed by “Benny Lava”

After a quality-wise mixed LeWeb-conference in Paris last week (pictures here) which is close to to revive the diplomatic American-French rift and a brief intermediary stop in Munich, I arrived in India on early Sunday morning with my good friend and business partner Dirk Schornstein. Actually, the flight LH 754 from Frankfurt to Bangalore added those few missing miles to become a Lufthansa HON-Circle.

HON Circle confirmed

607,771 miles in 2 years, uffz, so I kind of deserve it for spending half of my life on a plane :-)

Bangalore at this time of the year has it's coldest season of the year where I almost feel like a sissy wearing a pyjama during the night in South India, but it's just these 14° C during the night which make it slightly chilly.

It's Dirk's first time to India and for me it's almost a bit of re-discovery through his "virgin eyes" for this country which with tomorrow's date exactly for 5 years has become the centre for my little universe. Dirk is doing very well, with learning fast how to cross a street alive by running like a headless chicken (Quoting his last tweet: "Crossing streets is like playing Frogger. Difference: only 1 life. #india #traffic") and eating spicy food with his hands.

Dirk at Nagarjuna in Bangalore

We are here half-business, half-fun, later the day we'll attend the TIE Summit with the most impressive entrepreneurs from various industries in India. For the fun part we'll have two journeys. The first starting tomorrow by flying to Coimbatore, taking the toy-train to Ooty, spending two nights in the Mudulamai National Park and driving back to Bangalore with a stop-over in Mysore. The second trip from next Monday to Goa over Christmas and one night in Bombay.

After the terrible terrorist attacks in Mumbai three weeks ago, I was very carefully assessing the situation. In terms of risk I had identified three possible scenarios: Another attack, either by the same group or some other who wants to take a "free ride" in an anyway tense situation, a clash between Hindus and Muslims like it had happened in 1993 already and rising military temperature between India and Pakistan. The latter is becoming increasingly unlikely thanks to India's prudent reaction to Pakistan which has to be considered a failed state in all the harshness of the expression. Or as Shashi Tharoor put in in the current print edition of the Time Magazine: "India is a state with an army, Pakistan is an army with a state." 

If there is anything of a good in all the evil which has been done, it is the fact the honest hard-working Indians from the middle and upper class are waking up, saying "enough is enough" to it's incapable political leadership and reclaiming democracy from those who have corrupted it. A good read on the "State of the Union" is the country-special in the current "The Economist" where it for instance says about India's progress in the abysmal infrastructure everywhere: "But India will not meet its target; it never does."

Richmond Road in Bangalore: Creepy Infrastructure

Still, the subcontinent is always full of surprises and nothing would be further from reality than writing India off. Dirk and I will have a good time in the next days and weeks for sure. If you want to follow our trip, here we are:

Finally, to end this post with something extremely, tremendously funny, a music video from a Bollywood dance-scene which is even by Indian standards on the rather "extreme" side of the scale by itself. What makes it, however, completely OTT (=over the top) are its "subtitles" which are "explaining" what is being sung. Check this out, because at the end of the day we are all "Benny Lava" :-)

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

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.

“IT Product Conclave” in Bangalore: Moving Upscale

Recently I have reduced a little bit on my conference tourism, but didn’t want to miss the opportunity while being at home in Bangalore. On Monday and yesterday, there was the IT Product Conclave & Expo of the India’s formidable IT-association NASSCOM . Formidable for the reason as I have attended the NASSCOM Leadership Conference twice already which attracted speakers like Thomas Friedman, Amartya Sen or then India's President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

This was in the heydays of the industry which so far has relied entirely on services, this means running a business model which scales predominantly by adding more and more people based on  – however sophisticated – labour arbitrage. As one of the forte's if the industry has evolved the capability for designing, building and maintaining e.g. a complex and specific system for a particular banking client. Obviously, as markets tend to gravitate towards efficiency, the realizable margin gets squeezed by the supply-side soaking up the available scarce talent. Moreover, macro-factors like the rising Rupee against the US-$ have added additional pressure on the profitability, not to mention the ugly “R-Word” (for recession) which is spooking around.

Things are not outright shitty nowadays, but the concern has been for quite some while where the growth will come from. Therefore, with some foresight, 4 years ago NASSCOM initiated an innovation agenda which got conceptually supported by Boston Consulting Group, addressing the question how to build industries which will sustain the next 20-25 years on a much wider canvas. One of the key conclusions was that “software products” would prove a path to higher value businesses than just army of “programming coolies” (old quote from Sharad Sharma, CEO Yahoo! R&D India). Products are ultimately the best way to “package, store and disseminate organizational knowledge”, as my fellow EO-member Atul Jalan from Manthan Software set forth. Moreover, as products implicate a more immediate level of competition, they foster stronger innovation which in turn is able to churn up better products which in turn will command a higher price. Here the Indian cost-advantage clearly plays into the hands of product-companies and can get a virtuous cycle started.

It is worthwhile taking a look at the current state of the Indian software product industry:  In the FY 2008 it turned over US-$ 1.42 bn with a CAGR of 44 % within the last 3 years – (which is a 50 % higher growth rate that the much more mature older brother of “IT services”). Another good sign is that from the currently 370 software product companies in the Indian market, two-thirds have been incepted within the last three years. However, looking at how the revenues are distributed, there is a typical “long tail” or a power law (or as a proper German would say “a problem of justice” ;-) The Top 10 together aggregate 84 % of the market – and the rest of 360 companies, well, the rest.

NASSCOM Product Forum 08

Equally interesting is to take a step back to slice and dice what “software products” actually means. Not too surprisingly, as the Indian IT-industry has had extensive time to gain experience in the last 10 odd years, the clear focus lies in B2B-enterprise-applications within the following areas.

NASSCOM Product Forum 09

Interestingly my other major field of entrepreneurial activity, the B2C high-scale internet platforms do not show up here – or to put it the other way around NASSCOM does not categorize them here under products and/or does not feel that those fall under NASSCOM’s primary mentoring requirements. And I frankly don’t have a clue why this is as many of the abstract criteria used for “IT products” clearly apply also to portals, platform, social networks and the likes. Or NASSCOM has an incomprehensive view on that sector because e.g. “search engines” or “online search” are being named, likewise in another study “mobile games” morphing more generally speaking to “mobile applications”.

NASSCOM sees its role as a catalyst for achieving the BGAG (big hairy audacious goal) of catapulting the software product industry to a volume of something between US-$ 9 to 12 bn by 2015. The support of the organization would happen on multiple levels like exactly this and further conferences, providing best practises, incepting its own fund, but above all providing a shift in the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs to go the more difficult but more rewarding product route.

Finally, looking at markets, one true “paradigm shift” (I am really careful with this overused term) is taking place. In the first place, India as a domestic market in various sectors like Telecom or Retail is all of a sudden sufficiently big to get a software product to market. Moreover, the normal and necessary route for internationalization would have always led to the U.S. – This is no longer so. The Chinese market has proved to be a potential “next territory”, given a similar maturity of the industries into which to sell. And, last but not least, the Middle East. There, as IDG Ventures India CEO Sudhir Sethi explained “buyers feel much more comfortable buying security software from Indian vendors than from those based in the U.S. or Israel.”

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 …

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