The world needs more 007s

When you look for successful companies who have somewhere more than 25-50 employees, you will find about 400,000 companies. And when we assume about 6 billion adults you will come to 0.007% of people founding, co-founding and running those companies. Entrepreneurs are clearly a extremely rare minority. Now – the number is obviously dominated by the developed nations who have a culture of business builders. One may think also a much better education system. But the argument of education is not quite holding. Most of the successful entrepreneurs actually quit school before graduation and just started their company. Many of today’s or even yesterday’s entrepreneurs did not come from a wealthy family or from a family with entrepreneurial background or had a great education. Researching the background of hundreds of entrepreneurs we worked with made it pretty clear: The only pattern is no pattern.


How Many More Hidden Gems are there?


Now the most interesting question arises: How many of those hidden gems do we have all over Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the rest of the world?

At the World Innovations Forum we are looking especially for that minority of often laughed at, crazy people with amazing ideas that seem to be completely unrealistic. We are not necessarily looking for people who want to start a company but also those who would love to become a co-founder or work in a startup like environment in a corporate innovation lab.

Test Your Entrepreneurial DNA

If you like to know whether you maybe a good entrepreneur or a good co-founder or somebody living your entrepreneurial dream in a corporate innovation lab, do your your test. This project is not funded by any corporation. Therefor we need to fund it ourselves and ask for $2.50 to contribute to the WIForum organization. You will win regardless. If you know you are an entrepreneur, great, if you know you are probably not, you can safe time and money from trying and if you still want to try – you actually should anyway.

After you completed the test we will review it and let you know. Those who appear to be especially talented will be invited to an interview to possibly join the WIForum Entrepreneurum, a special entrepreneurship preparation program that may lead to an entry into the Innopreneurs Academy.

Join the Innopreneurs Academy

The Innopreneurs Academy will work with participants deeply on innovation design, creating ground breaking innovation and building their company within a six month period. The developed world was built on the shoulders of a handful of amazing entrepreneurs. We see no reason to experience the same in all nations. The only difference we are looking at: Don’t make the same mistakes the old world did and grow monster companies that can no longer innovate. Instead build highly specialized highly connected enterprises where many other enterprises deliver specialized parts or services. Economies with a small number of monster organizations are doomed to fail, while highly agile economies with lots of innovative companies collaborating show the most stable societies.

NOTE: this concept may look completely contradicting the idea of inclusion. But in the case of entrepreneurship we cannot circumvent mother nature. There are only so many talents on earth – but we want to include all of them. Democratizing entrepreneurship.

 

 

The world is introduced to two more ways to be divided. In the past we divide between east and west, north and south, good and mediocre education, blue collar and white collar, religious and non religious and so forth. The digital divide has been discussed more on a local level and language divide is an almost none issue.

In just 4 months however, the digital divide became a global topic and the discussions around the language divide has moved from scientific and sociologic discussions to a global divide of English and Non-English speaking groups.

LANGUAGE DIVIDE

Politicians with less English language capabilities have less global insights in the virus development and take much longer to respond. Those, who are fluently speaking English have usually a faster response time, with a few exceptions. The German chancellor for instance explored all globally available date and decided with a very clear answer and very well educated. We see the late start but the radical results. And even within countries one can experience the divide based on language skills or the lack thereof.

DIGITAL DIVIDE

Rapidly setup digital home office or not. Using conference calls or not. Business continuation plans or not. Staying connected or not. Remaining social or being isolated. What was “BAD” and having potentially long term negative impact –  all of a sudden became a social LIFE SAVER.

Even most stubborn businesses or governments rationalized that we are divided in two worlds: the digitally connected and the physically connected. One can switch behavior and work modi in an instant others not at all.

And we learned more: Those who work from home over a longer period of time, now either start working later and really sleep in – but are usually up later in the evening and vice versa. I realized getting emails from some people already at 6am, long before I usually be up and have even phone calls at 11pm because that is more like my time :) Funny – it not only doesn’t hurt – it actually makes life much more natural.Everybody can live their life by their inner clock. Did I mention daylight savings time? NO I actually get only disrupted by the change of my clock – but not my inner cycle.

COMBiNATION OF BOTH

Both together: the digital and the language divide are a powerful couple or a serious threat. When running innovation development programs with participants from literally around the world we realized a phenomenal effect: NO matter whether the participants are from Ghana, Vietnam, South Korea, California or Switzerland, the digitally literate and fluently English speaking attendees show no sign of any difference. Even not when one comes from one of the top universities and others from mid level education. Innovators seem to speak a universal language of fearlessness, creativity, curiosity and ambition.

In the end, all the good intention and experiments to bring more equality to the world, with at least moderate impact pushed a 0.3 micron small virus rapidly forward. Only time will tell the real impact past corona. For now the degree of unification however shows amazing progress.

 

Happy Birthday Alfred Escher

In times where innovation and entrepreneurship is discussed across the globe, the name Alfred Escher needs to be mentioned. Maybe one of the most influential entrepreneurs of all times. Yet, back in the days where he was actively engaged, quite some people were undecided if what he does is of any value, several even thought it’s the biggest wast of time and resources of all times. It was in the days when Switzerland was the poorest nation in Europe and his ideas have been everything but obvious for the average Swiss.

In retrospect we can say he single handedly built the foundation of the swiss economy and the swiss prosperity as we know it today. It was this foundation that propelled Switzerland from the poorest country in Europe to one of the top most prosperous countries in the world. It seems almost impossible that a single person could make that happen. And it is also probably the best example to demonstrate to entrepreneurs in the developing and emerging world, which represents more than 75% of humankind that there is an opportunity for every nation and even every entrepreneur to change the world – at least the nation he or she lives in.

Escher’s Work

Alfred Escher, was neither an engineer nor a banking expert. He was a great visionary with enormous power to put things into practise. He was fascinated not only by technology but also by the idea of networking various forces for the common good and making them more productive. In that respect, he was one of the forerunners of globalization.

His entrepreneurial engagement was unparalleled. Between 1848 and 1860 he founded the most strategic businesses of the early Swiss economy. In 1852 he founded the North East Railroad running between Lake Constance and Zurich, bringing the train connection from Germany to Switzerland. In 1854 he founded the Swiss Polytechnikum, today ETH, one of the most renown tech universities in the world. With such a university he was able to attract young talents and had them educated for the sophisticated project he organized. In 1856 he founded the Swiss Credit Company, today Credit Suisse, one of the world’s biggest banks. That bank was able to attract foreign capital and stimulated other businesses, the ecosystem of Escher development. New companies, supporting and competing had been inspired by Escher’s engagement, to a degree that Switzerland began to grow to a self propelled economy. And in 1857 he founded the Swiss Life Insurance and Pension Company, today Swiss Life, again one of the world’s most renown insurance companies. Finally, Alfred Escher became the driving force behind the Gotthard Tunnel development and one more time demonstrated that infrastructure is the core of all economic development. As far as we could research, no other person in the world had such an impact to a nationwide economic development – in such a short period of time.

The big learning

When comparing today’s world and its emerging countries, with what happened back then, no NGO, no support organization and no other government would have supported Escher’s crazy ideas. The Swiss country – people would argue – needs everything but a railroad, they need agricultural development aid, they don’t need a sophisticated bank but more people who at least own their own store. They need educated workers not Ph.Ds. IN retrospect all the short sighted analysis what they would need would have lead to failure. Looking into Africa – nobody had seen the rapid growth of mobile phones, because the “analysis” would tell what they need and a mobile phone is the last thing on that list. But the cell phones helped ignite economic development. Gladly for Switzerland, in the mid 1800’s there was no NGO that consulted the Swiss government what to do.

Today, February 20, 2020,  is Alfred Escher’s 101’st Birthday. More can be found at the Alfred Escher Foundation

I’ve been asked countless times if it is worth to still enter the startup hype – or will it be gone sooner or later. Yes, in the developed nations, where legal structures, capital markets and production gets ever more complicated, it may fade away. If the is is good or bad is a very important question to ask.

 

When The Startup Hype ends

Startups exists for approximately 12,000 years. The 300,000 years before that people have been already innovative, but not as a full time job. But 12,000 years ago, when during the agricultural revolution individuals produced more food than they and their family could eat – everything changed. That was the time when some people ventured out to specialize and did no longer gather or hunt but built pots, bend metal, built housing and others began t sell those products and services as a full time job. The simply traded products and even services for food. Those were the first entrepreneurs. And that never faded away. After hunting and farming, building and trading have been the oldest businesses on earth.

Today, roughly 0.007% of the world population are entrepreneurs. In the developed world, about 0.03% are entrepreneurs, approximately 3% are busy farming and taking care of food and 97% are working for those entrepreneurs or for the government. As most governments have the tendency to grow, the number of startups and innovations are sinking. In the developed world, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and the US are some of the most efficient with less than 15% working for the Government.

The more people work in “safe” jobs in large enterprises and the government, the lower the number of startups and with it the lower the likelihood to grow the next generation of innovation powerhouses. That’s when the startup hype ends in those nations and grows in other nations as the windows for new opportunity widen quickly.

And we could see this over the past 12,000 years. Egypt led the longest time as global economic leader. But it was not sustainable. Other leading nations rose. The Roman empire, the chinese high times, the british empire, and so forth. Today – the economic power is far more distributed. California, China, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland are all leading nations. But when the startup “hype” vanishes away, so do their countries on the global leader list — BUT — with 20-30 years of a delay.

What are your prediction, when the startup hype will end?

As an organization, who has INNOVATION in its name, obviously we are diving very deep into the topic and getting a large variety of perspectives and insights. Innovation tightly connected to entrepreneurship. As a consequence, we asked ourselves, what can we do to bring economic development in developing countries to an all new level. A level where we can see progress in a much shorter time period. Obviously education is one of the initial needs.

Phenomenal Education Development

Africa, most of South East Asia and Latin America has showed phenomenal progress in education already; having 1,000 times more academic graduates than 50 years ago. There are now thousands of Universities across those continents, which created millions of well trained people – but with no equivalent job. What would a math degree do if you can’t work with it? Today there are more than a million graduates in in each of the three continents. The best they can do would be try to get to Europe or the US. Yet – that would be a devastating brain drain and remove all hopes, those nations have today. Before the inception of development aid, education was a function of having better employees to handle the jobs – but here we have better education but no jobs. We realized we needed to find out how exactly did developed countries develop.

The Rise of Developed Countries

In the early and mid 1800’s, Switzerland was the poorest country in Europe. Germany was a poor country, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in Asia, California was a desert and the most western farmland in the US. If not for the Gold, California would hardly be on the map. Yet the natural resources died out quickly. A similar risk the Arabian peninsula is facing. However something changed above and beyond natural resources and tourism: Innovation and entrepreneurship. When Carl Benz, Robert Bosch, Werner v. Siemens and Friedrich Krupp, crazy entrepreneurs with useless ideas, started to engineer, develop, produce, market, sell and scale their businesses, Germany became a wealthy nation. There is nothing else that propelled the German economy as much as these crazy entrepreneurs. At the same time period, Alfred Escher wanted to build a railroad in Switzerland. But since this was a low priority for the very poor Swiss population, he could not raise any capital. So he asked for foreign investment, the sheer amount he raised, required him to create a more international bank, Credit Suisse. Since he needed more talent, he created the Zürich based University, ETH, today one of the most renowned Tech Universities in the world. Did you know the jet engine was invented in France? Now you know why France is still one of the world’s leading aerospace nations. Did you know that Silicon Valley was essentially based on five entrepreneurs? Almost all developed countries started poor, had an environment where crazy entrepreneurs just could do their thing, no matter how useless and money could flow in from foreign investors. The US, Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, and all others have been based on that very principle. Thousands of years before that it was war, theft and the financing of their armies to do the very same: invent, grow, sell and come to prosperity. Since thousands of years, the nations that carried their goods in foreign countries and received investment from foreign countries rose. And there is no reason to continue that path with an ever larger number of nations. We never tried to answer the question, how can we get 3.5 Billion people out of poverty with the help from the West? We wanted to know what made the developed countries so prosperous and if we could apply that learning to eradicate poverty.

Economic Development 4.0

We realized that nearly all developed countries, on three different continents rose to prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship. Moreover, in understanding that entrepreneurship is not a western ‘invention’ but a universally applicable concept, for thousands of years across all cultures. We began to look for such entrepreneurs in developing and emerging countries. And we found jar dropping entrepreneurs and their startups in Argentina, Ghana, Nigeria, Peru, Vietnam and many other countries. With those results, we decided to turn economic development towards a direction that was probably not very well understood before: innovation and entrepreneurship.

We envisioned entrepreneurial journeys from local to global enterprises in most nations. We developed unique tools like the Innovative Thinking Model, Digital Engagement Methods, and explored Next Generation Digital Stock exchanges that could make a huge difference to those entrepreneurs embarking on a catch up race with developed nations. These measures have a good chance to play a defining role in enabling fast growing innovative companies. They will develop far more environmentally friendly products, find new ways of packaging, new ways to turn deserted land back to green land, turn abundant energy like wind or solar heat into usable energy or even mechanisms to leverage those energies directly. We see entrepreneurs working on biological material and AI solutions, like in Nepal, in a way nobody ever thought about. We will not come with technology and ideas that they can execute but with ways to stimulate their ingenuity to do the impossible – and radical different things. Those new businesses can create hundreds of thousands of jobs quickly absorbing the already waiting academics. This is not an idea or concept. Again, this is exactly how developed countries emerged. And since today’s startups no longer take 30 years to rise but already after 3 years have somewhere around 50+ employees and rise to the top within 7 to 10 years, we have a good chance to turn 20 to 50 nations into prosperous developed countries by 2030. The only key task to perform is the work with governments to enable three things: Foreign Direct Investments, Infrastructure development, and Investor/Entrepreneurship friendly policies.

Economic development 4.0 is all about inspiration, education, stimulation – and letting the local entrepreneurs do what they think, what they want and what they believe is the right thing to do. If nobody wants to develop tools to structure their overwhelming city traffic, well, than there maybe no need and we may learn from the way that flow is going – very much like the flow of our blood does not need signs and stop lights ;) Economic Development 4.0 was created to prevent our developed experiences from influencing their development. You may also notice that none of the fastest growing economies these days such as China, Vietnam, Rwanda… are democracies. And we have no right at all and under no circumstances to change that. The only ones who may want to do that are the respective countries themselves – no matter what.

We are starting end of this year with “Seeding Innovation 2020” in 17 countries in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. This is an open invitation to join us. Https://wiforum.org/join