Archive for the 'Technology' Category
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Horasis and its founder Frank-Jürgen Richter are really coming to ever new heights with its format of “Global X Business Meeting”. Take “X” as a placeholder for China, India, Russia and soon Arab, too. The concept is brilliant: Create a platform for political and economic leaders for a specific country, let them fly out of their cocoon for 2 days in a completely different continent and blend them with political and economic leaders from the host country. For the recent Global Russia Business Meeting that host country was Slovenia (in Ljubljana), last for last year’s Global India Business Meeting it was Germany (Munich) and for this year it was Spain in its magnificent capital of Madrid. (All pictures of the event here on this set.)
This year’s top participants from India were the Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, who spoke about his country’s resilience to weather the storm of the global economic crisis, aspiring to a double digit GDP-growth and acknowledging the requirement build stronger ties to Europe. As a reference to his hosts Mr. Sharma mentioned in particular Spain whose trade volume with India ranks only 43.
From the Spanish side, the Crown Prince Felipe gave himself the honour to speak. As someone who has rather reservations to monarchy, I was honestly surprised not to see some smug royal retard, but a highly educated, soft-spoken and down-to-earth guy who is very well able to play his constitutional and social role in such a setting very well.
I had the pleasure to moderate panel on a topic which is personally very dear to me: Innovation. In particular “Driving the Future: India’s Technology Pioneers – India’s IT and other technology firms are emerging as global players in their own right. What areas are they pioneering in and how do they compete in world markets?” The participants had a lot to share from their experience:
- Dinesh Dhamija, former Founder and CEO of ebookers.com, now Founder and Chairman, Copper Beech Group, United Kingdom
- Sachin Dev Duggal, Chairman, Nivio, India
- Naeem Ghauri, Co-Founder, NetSol Technologies, Pakistan & United Kingdom
- Clas Neumann, President, SAP Labs India, Germany
- Jeff Heenan Jalil, Head – Wipro Technologies, Europe, Wipro, India
- Glenn Proellochs, Chief Executive Officer, Travelpaper.com, Switzerland
- Sudhir Sethi, Chairman, IDG Ventures India Advisors India
- Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman, IMC, USA
This format of a so called “board room dialogue” in an intimate setting allows for a true conversation among the panellists where the “audience” blends seamlessly in. Three main conclusions on innovation that I’d to summarize here:
- IT-Innovation in India has multiple dimensions. It’s not just about the classic Western understanding of filing a patent for some say cutting edge laser-thing. It’s often process innovation: Just think of the 1 million resumés (!) that Infosys is getting every year to fill 12,000 positions, you need to handle that somehow. Or business innovation with a particular focus on the price point, see for example the world-class rate of 0.5 US-Cent per minute on Indian mobile operators.
- Bigger organisations like SAP or Wipro can only innovate of their culture embodies constant change whereby their organizational frameworks act like a stable meta-layer for innovation.
- India is not good at everything, should and often does recognize both its strengths and weaknesses. For instance anything around User Interface can be done with a company in the Silicon Valley much better. The conclusion here: In times where you can assemble easily global sourcing chains, also from the Indian perspective applies: Do what you can do best and outsource the rest :-)
After all the inspiring discussions over the day, we headed off for a cocktail reception to the beautiful Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez where Mr. Peacock was greeting us with his evergreen mating-show.
Last but not least, thanks a lot to Frank for once again putting such an awesome Horasis-event together.
Even after 6 years of living in India, the subcontinent is full of surprises every day. Just one week of being here, countless of heartwarming, witty and inspiring stories. Starting in the here and now: I am sitting on a “laptop station” after security of Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and blogging this post away. Really amazing where India has gotten with such a world class airport, working stations including free high-speed wireless internet (try to get that on a German airport).
It’s been quite a busy travelling week, so last Friday I have been at Cochin Airport where this instance caught my eye. In contrast to western economics where capital EXCHANGES labour for the sake of saving cost, the success formula in India seems to be capital PLUS labour.
In a congenial combination of man & machine the concept works like this: A customer steps forward to the apparatus and selects an item. The guy in the yellow T-Shirts takes his money and shovels it into the machine, the magazine drops down, the guy picks it up and hand it to the customer. Variation B: For bigger items, that’s even more hilarious, the guy collects the money, opens the door, grabs the article and hands it out. So basically as a customer you get the feeling that modern technology is still grounded by good old human service.
Some Indian ads are just involuntarily funny, I really wonder what rode the heavily metrosexual art director of coming up with this copy. It’s supposed to promote the speed of transfer as well breadth of shopping opportunities at Bangalore Airport.
Well, if I was that girl, I also wished that rather the teddybear be my father and not that guy with the gay moustache with the glossy lipstick beneath LOL
Happy New Year to all of you, and all the best for 2010. A quick update from my side on what has happened in the last weeks with our project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”.
- The girls are fine, I just went to see them on December 22nd and they were – although in vast majority Hindu – very excited about upcoming Christmas. When I asked what they had learned so far with their new computers, they explained me how to start the machine, change the background colour of the desktop and equally knew who invented the micro-processor and when :-)
- The computers are all up and running, two of them keep on disconnecting the WiFi-connection. We are in touch with Wipro based on the warranty to get this fixed.
- Thanks to our network-infrastructure wizard Sumanth, Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) has committed a desktop computer to us, which will replace the current machine acting as the server. We are waiting for NSN to “de-frost” this desktop from its assets.
- Although we can see initial traction of the girls interacting with the netbooks, we have decided the replace the current teacher and from April have a DAILY 2-hours curriculum. This intention reflects adequately both the importance and the potential that lies in technology-education for children.
- Hence: If you know any reputable computer school or computer training institution in Bangalore, which would be able to provide a female teacher (against payment) on a daily bases, drop me a mail under rene.seifert [at] gmail.com
The Vatsalya Children’s Home primarily combines housing and school education for the girls whom we have been supporting in the current project. However, the institution runs in addition daily schooling for children from the surrounding slums on its compound. Shashi, the Secretary of Vatsalya, had asked me if I could support her in building a simple roof above the patio where their lessons take place. So far the kids were exposed to the burning sun, which – South India being South India – tends to be pretty hot. So I committed Rs. 15,000 (EUR 220) from our remaining funds which would allow to close the funding requirement and start with the construction work asap.
From our current financials, we therefore stand at a remaining amount of EUR 756.20 , see the overview on Google Docs. As we have the foreseeable cost of paying the teacher for the daily curriculum from April onwards, I propose to “keep the powder dry” and refrain from any new expenditure unless we get clearer visibility on this.
Wish you a phenomenal year ahead, and I will be happy to keep you updated on Vatsalya and “our girls” :-)
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 :-)
Yesterday, I got this comment to the presentation on Slideshare where I initially outlined the project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”. I started to answer a few lines and realized that I got drawn into some fundemental considerations which I thought it’s better to share here on my blog. This is the comment as a screenshot, my answer below.
Thanks for your appreciation of the project. At the same, time I am not convinced that a competitive comparison between “Sugata Mitra” on the one side and “Professor Negroponte” on the other side really addresses the key question. Turning too much to this aspect, in my opinion, distracts the focus from effective deployment of OLPC laptops into a somehow dogmatic debate what in the essence are nuances.
I was surprised to learn yesterday after a phone conversation with Mr. Satish Jha, Head of OLPC India, that there are economic constraints to deliver 11 computers. Therefore OLPC India is trying to bundle at least orders of 100 computers to make it economically feasible. In other countries, the number is rather up to 10,000 minimum units. Point taken, still quite a lot of “foregone demand” in the long tail.
Back to our project at hand: There is no doubt that 50 computers for 50 children are better than 10. This however, means stating the obvious as much as: Everyone will prefer drawing an annual salary of $250,000 instead of $50,000.
The “scarcity of resources” is such a fundamental aspect in economics, that I don’t intend to bore anybody to death detailing it further. In conjunction with the all agreed “law of diminishing returns” we can’t avoid to ask the question: Is 5 times the number of computer with 5 times the capital investment 5 times as effective? I don’t think so. Therefore, after long consideration, I deliberately decided to set this project up in such a manner that we keep it to 10 computers for 50 children (plus one for the teachers to get acquainted.)
Pushing the project ahead, I also started the realize that making this admittedly small-scale project a success, other challenges need to be solved:
- Bringing broadband internet to the orphanage which is cost effective and does not explode in cost once you come above the in India common monthly data-volume cap (=no flat-rate)
- Installing some rudimentary furniture for tables and chairs
- Electricity (it’s there, more rather cabling, so not really a problem)
These adjacent aspects obviously also “scale” with more and more computers, which I had barely included in the funding. (No issues, I’ll get that solved with my own money.) What I learnt as an entrepreneur is following a bold and big vision, but keeping single bits & pieces manageable. The scope of this initial project follows pretty much this path. I don’t rule out, as we move along the leaning curve and finalize this project, to raise additional funds and buy more laptops for the same orphanage.
Given the scenario which is unfolding, we will tightly keep to our initial plan to obtain 11 computers. Mr. Jha yesterday promised yesterday during our phone call that he’ll get back to me in order to let me know if and how he’s able to bundle the 11 computers into a larger lot. First and foremost, this is something we should focus to get solved.
One, for this particular project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”, but in my opinion also for “hundreds of other requests for small-scale orders to OLPC India” which Mr. Jha mentioned during our conversation.
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.
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. )
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.
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.
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 ;-)
Back in India, the mental dust has settled after those four days of amazing conversations on Martin Varsavky’s farm for the MenorcaTechTalk. Besides being hyper-inspiring with plenty of take-away value to be put into action, I found it at least as interesting as a sort of „social experiment“.
Bring around 60 fantastic people together on a farm, have almost no structure (apart from the „official“ 4-hour session on Friday afternoon), have bikes and a quad ready for usage, let people hang out on the pool, take them on the sailing boat and see what happens.
Even more so, put people – who would usually stay in chic hotels – and have them share a simple but honest room and then see what happens.
Interestingly, much more than if you met the same people over the same period of time on a conference where you get conversations of the type “I am the XYZ from soandso and we are the number 1 in thisandthat). In Menorca, it was quite different, because people open up in a completely new way on the personal level, which then also transcends to the “professional conversations”, or even more so, makes the distinction between the two obsolete. (By the way, my entire picture-set under Creative Commons-license here on Flickr.)
On another note, the event confirmed my discovery that dressing-down is directly proportional to better results in a team-setting. (Maybe investment bankers should also relax and start coming in shorts and flip-flops to work to prevent them from final extinction …) Martin is in that context clearly “leading by example” himself with our host’s take on the event on his blog.
It certainly helped that this brief formal part allowed every participant who wished to give a maximum 5 minute-talk which had to conclude with a tangible problem. This kind of anchoring allowed the other participants afterwards to start a meaningful conversation about how to solve the problem whereby the communication usually took extremely interesting and unpredicted routes.
Picture courtesy of Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ
I introduced my latest project “OLPC for the Vatsalya-Orphanage” asking for sharing of experience how to structure charity in general as well as best practises in fundraising, performance-metrics and how to avoid the traps of diluting focus and/or as over-investing. Very concretely, I got three very interesting contacts referred where I started to interact with. (And by the way, two days back, I was able to close the round of funding.)
One of the most mind-blowing presentations came from Isaac Shpantzer who presented a new technology, which allows for the transmission of broadband internet via laser. Yes, laser. The concept: A laser-beam in the blue spectrum (therefore also suitable during daylight) is beamed vertically into the sky and carries the digital information where the 1s and 0s are transformed through some “language” into light.
Because of the earth’s atmosphere, the laser beam begins to scatter. Now: Whoever is located in the line of sight of the upper part of the laser (where it scatters) and has a signaling-device installed e.g. behind his window is able to exchange data. The technology is fully bi-directional and allows for a dedicated bandwidth per household of up to 100 MBit/sec. If only 50 % of this concept became feasible at reasonable economics, I bet that it will fundamentally impact the backend-infrastructure of internet-connectivity.
Besides such food for thought, the food for real was absolutely stunning with an ever changing variety of dishes over the days. (I could still kick myself that I had to leave too early on Sunday and miss the Asado.) But for sure, I got a fair share of this paella:
Thank you very much Martin and Nina, for your kind invitation and putting this event with lasting impressions together. The atmosphere, the networking, the fun and especially the bonding were unparalleled. Thanks also to Matias and Eva for the perfect organization and their ever-sunny-mood for – as a Germany proverb goes – “herding a sack of fleas”.