Our world is shaping itself in an all new way.

Startups on Decline

We are seeing a general decline of “startups” mainly those who were just jumping on the bandwagon without any serious concept, more importantly without any real entrepreneurial DNA. It actually feels like a positive self cleanup across the globe. And the old saying “the best startups come out of a crisis” continues to be of value.

Economy Estimates

The world will experience another $5 Trillion or more in economic losses in the next 6-9 months. There is no change in sight right now. 2021/22 and maybe 23 will stay as is. Digital is the new social and endangered industries like Tourism, Hospitality, Air Travel, Trade, Shopping, Luxury Products and Automobile, have no where to go in the next three years. In particular democracies are hit hard and ultra easy to stimulate groups to protest and those minorities can bring an entire nation including their economy to a halt.

Innovation Financing

Innovation needs to be financed. No matter if it is a startup, a mid-market business, an enterprise, an educational institute or a government. Non profit businesses will be hit the hardest – by order of magnitude. NGOs cannot deliver a financial return on investment. But in times when cash is king, the ROI counts. On the other hand profitable businesses who deliver a value, people pay for have it rather easy. Innovative businesses will remain to be the focus point of investors around the world.

Innovation Acceleration

In order to make innovation fundable, the innovation must attract investors and must match the interests of investors. In a 10 month long “Innovation Acceleration Program” we are helping teams to fully understand modern innovation methods and processes, understand the full innovation life cycle from start to re-innovation.

Moving Fast Forward

In order to keep moving forward, we initiated the following activities simultaneously:

  • AUDIENCE: We expanded the audience we want to support to include SMEs.
  • CONTENT: We always combine events with “Knowledge Transfer”. Moving forward we are relaying on our partners to organize events and we simply support, provide content, speak, are available for chats and networking. That way we can support more and reduce the organization overhead.
  • INNOVATION: There is probably no business that has a fully functional innovation strategy. We put all our efforts into helping businesses become truly innovative – not just improve.

WIForum Business Model

As an organization we shifted to a new hybrid business model: Memberships and making services only available to memberships. Services income for resource intensive services and sponsorship for industry relevant activities.

Summary

We built up the 2021 strategy for World Innovations Forum very early this year and introduced it a few days ago to our Ambassadors in Europe, Asia, Africa and the US.  The core aspects include:

  • From donations to equity funding” for all emerging nations.
  • Digital is the new social” for developed countries.

The overarching direction: Innovation is the single biggest driver for economic freedom and prosperity – which is relevant for all nations no matter where they are.

Since thousands of years, innovation has been the primary success factor for any business and for any economy. And the counter fact, a declining ability to innovate, results in declining successes and the business or nation eventually vanishes away from top of mind as one of the companies or nations people talk about.

Emerging country entrepreneurs have the best potential for innovation

When recognizing a big problem and working in a team to find  a solution, emerging country entrepreneurs have a big advantage of the developed world: No limits from ideation to idea validation, to early production and entering into the mainstream market. In the developed world, even existing innovations like Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, Uber, AirBnB are attacked by pseudo legal conflicts all the way to banning those innovations. Mercedes can’t run autonomous driving test cars in Germany and need to do it in Silicon Valley, the arch rival of innovation. Amazon gets fought as the killer of the small businesses as customer prefer the much easier online offering. Facebook is a constant victim of attacks due to its sheer size and influence based on their innovation that attracts two billion users daily and represent essentially 90% of the digitized world. Like Amazon, AirBnB and uber are even banned in some countries because their innovation has put the lagard and conventional businesses in jeopardy. And instead of “counter innovating” the slow moving and far to letharging old world businesses fight with legal attacks however obscurely created. Whether one creates or tries to implement innovative and disruptive solutions in the developed world is doomed to fail. The good news. Europe and the US with its combined 1 billion population is only one 8th of the world population. The other close to 7 billion people, 1.4 billion in fast rising Africa, 4.5 in even faster growing Asia are more then enough to become  a world leader in any solution of the millions of unsolved problems. The innovative minds in those developing and fast emerging nations are not just the only chance those countries have to get out of poverty – it is the only chance for all of us to get the much needed innovation to thrive as the human race.

Innovation is at the heart of the Word Innovations Forum

The World Innovations Forum Foundation was established as the “global exchange for innovative minds”. In the early days of our work we did that in 2014 under the Society3 brand as an accelerator in San Francisco, California. We expanded to Europa and began to work also in South east asia. Whatever country we visited, we saw the exact same pattern than in Silicon Valley, the rest of the US, Europe and the rest of the world: There are highly innovative, fearless, determined and intelligent entrepreneurs who want to change the world. Their gravitational force is almost magic and they attract hundreds of young people wanting to become an entrepreneur too. And even several of them make it as well. The rest is copying stuff that is already out there, hope they can make it cheaper and eventually fail and close their shop. With six years of experience what works and what not we are constantly improving our selection processes and with it making our acceleration and guidance as well as mentorship ever more demanding. One clear request we have not been stressing enough in the past is the WILLINGNESS TO INNOVATE. We have seen entrepreneurs who just did not have the right idea because they didn’t even know where to start to look for the right idea. We were able to help. But those who lack the mental bandwidth or interest to innovate we will no longer support. This has nothing to do with trying to be an elite club – we are the opposite. But without innovative the eagerness to create an mindset a team just can’t be successful. If one wants to become  movie star because of the glamor but is not willing to work for the skills and develop the talent it’s a waste of time for all parties. Innovation is at the heart of or organization AND in its name from day one. Going forward we will exclusively work with innovative minds and let other organizations who work with any startup do their job as good as they can. With the limited resources we have, we must focus on the best talents out there, who can make a difference.

Where do those magical innovative ideas come from?

The founders of the World Innovations Forum are known for their innovation history, creating 5 innovative businesses, with disruptive business models. That experience led to building the San Francisco Accelerator within the Society3. Yet another creation is coming out of Society3: BlueCallum. After four years of research where innovative ideas are coming from and how they are created, the team got inspired by latest neuroscience discoveries and found the answer. BlueCallum is a wholly owned business of Society3 and now focusing entirely on innovation creation, called Neuro Ideation and innovation process management with a new “Deep Innovation Design” model. Unlike many innovation methods including the “Design Thinking” model, Deep innovation design start before ideas get created and only finishes once the innovative idea is successfully brought to global markets. BlueCallum effectively disrupts the act of innovation itself. The close relationship between WIForum and BlueCallum is a great advantage to all WIForum members.

Searching for 007 Entrepreneurs

In every country we find at least 0.007% of the population being top successful entrepreneurs and the number can grow up to 0.3%. A successful entrepreneur has three key attributes: 1) has an innovative vision and approach, solving a major problem. 2) builds a company with thousands of jobs. 3) Has the execution power to export their products and create a major contribution to the nations GDP. Getting out of university and building a billion $ company is sort of the mainstream view of the entrepreneurial super stars. Fact is that all today’s top entrepreneurs have been gaining business experience by working in a large company and understanding how such a business works. Another globally spread myth is that experimentation, pivoting and trying something new gets a startup to a great result. Fact is that none of those ever made it to the top – none means zero. Another myth is that the lean startup method is a great method to follow. Fact is that it is a method created by somebody who failed 3 times and the big win was explaining it with creating a method. Since it was the first methodical startup approach every business school and university jumped on it but it was never proven to be successful. We wee looking at success pattern and the skills that connect all of the top entrepreneurs. We could not find one skill that connected them but ten traits / talents that were found in each of the top entrepreneurs. I don’t want to repeat it hear so just a pointer to the corresponding blog post:

We need all our partners, supporters, friends, friends of friends and networks to identify those golden talents in each country. After explaining above in great detail the why, let us share the how: 10 most relevant founders traits

If you get across anybody, however crazy, with absurd ideas to make a difference, point them to the world innovations forum and in particular to the InnoPreneurs Program AKA “007 Program“.

By answering a few questions we get a first indication of the entrepreneurial mind.
We follow up with a casual conversation to better understand motive, objectives, desires and so forth
Maybe a follow on conversation exploring the idea and the vision
Thereafter we will consult with our country ambassador for more insights.

If we can find 2,000 of such entrepreneurial minds in a 30 Million population country, we are at 0.007% of the population and it would be an amazing start.

Entrepreneurial Spirit Development

The first thing we will do, is to help an develop an entrepreneurial mindset. There are a few biases with even the most potent entrepreneurial superstars may have, mostly due to misseducation and wrong guidance:
1) Believing that they need money to start a business
2) Believing they need a university degree to create a company
3) Believing that they cannot afford top notch co-founders
4) Believing they need to be an engineer to craft a solution for a problem
5) Believing that they need a big advertising budget to get into the market
6) Believing that after the first round of funding they are over the hump
And several other believes like that

We will help curent that as all of that is neither necessary nor correct.
And since we realized that we are continuously working with our portfolio companies, even after six years, we created a long term program of mentorship and guidance, accompanying the teams through all phases of a business from start to full maturity.

Global Mentorship & Support Network

Since long term support is not only a problem in emerging countries, we will support entrepreneurs from any nation by building up an digital network of mentors and other successful entrepreneurs to be helpful to the next generation. The unfortunate pandemic however also trained everybody to be digital, accept digital and use the digital engagement to their advantage. At the World Innovations Form we are building a online network of mentors and supporters. If you like to help entrepreneurs with your entrepreneurial experience join the global network and become a member.

 

Yet another amazing World Innovations Forum Conference, all online. Attendees from 59 countries and speakers from 22 countries made it a great event.

The conference started with the 10-year agenda of the World Innovations Forum Foundation. Our Chairman talked about the time it takes to make startups into big companies and how many are needed to turn a developing country into a prosper economy. The aim of the forum and its members from over 20 countries is to double the number of developed countries by the end of this decade – 2030. Later on he spoke about the Innovations age where currently 30 patents are registered every minute. By inspiring more innovation this number will grow exponentially in the next ten years.

WIForum Digital Conference_Day 1_Axel Schultze

A WHOLE GROUP OF ORGANIZATIONS ALIGNED

WIForum Digital Conference Fabio SeguraThe World Innovations Forum is not the only organization with big ambitions. Another organization in our ecosystem are helping entrepreneurs to thrive, create large number of jobs and get their country to prosperity is the Jacobs Foundation. Their contribution to 2030 is to help with education and embracing learning variability. From a one fits all education system to learner adjusted education.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEVELOPMENT

WIForum Digital Conference_Entrepreneurs DevelopmentIn the following entrepreneurs round table, representatives from Tech in Africa, Axel Peyrier, the Happel foundation, Alexander Lanz and SwissContact, Teresa Widmer spoke about what it takes to actually inspire entrepreneurs, not telling them what to do. Great discussions and a variety of perspectives.

AMAZINGLY INNOVATIVE ENTREPRENEURS

We saw a total of 9 amazing startups and scaleups that only proves, that there are extraordinary and innovative startups in any country on Earth.

Owen Sakawa from RepairNet, Kenya, is building a platform for a roughly billion people market and their repair needs in Africa. And Eddy Richauvet from ShopRunBack in Cambodia is building possibly the most powerful addon to the e-commerce world, a complete “Return-Platform” including the logistics network for the 65% of the eCommerce market not covered by Amazon.

WIForum Digital Conference_Owen Sakawa_RepairNet

WIForum Digital Conference_Eddy Richauvet_ShopRunBack

 

 

 

 

Lin Hwang from Damogo, Indonesia is fighting food waste and how they turned on the heat in just a few months. Tobias Gunzenhauser, from Yamo, another Accelerator graduate, shared how he and his co-founders built Yamo into a super fast growing  baby-food powerhouse.

WIForum Digital Conference_Lin Hwang_DamoGo

WIForum Digital Conference_Tobias Gunzenhauser_Yamo

 

 

 

 

Agudor Agabas from AppCycle in Ghana presented their idea and how they transform waste to new products and use almost exclusively waste to produce everything from clothes to accessories in a very innovative way. A different innovator was Ibrahim Abdulmalik from Farmula in Kenya, he shared how they help revitalize the supply chain of farmers’ businesses, as it is to a large degree destroyed from western food business. Expired food from the developed nations are brought into Africa as “development aid” but ruins in some sections the entire local food chain. How can a chicken farmer compete with their free range chicken against chicken for free, even if it is already a bit rotten.

WIForum Digital Conference_Agudor Kwaku Agabas_AppCcylers

WIForum Digital Conference_Ibrahim Abdulmalik_Farmula

 

 

 

 

Moving virtually back to Asia, Phi Nguyen from sPhoton presented a new Artificial Intelligence based Corporate Communication System, taking modern voice interaction aka Alexa into the corporate world. It may not apply in the West, but the 6 billion Asian market with managers half the average age and hungry for digital experiences, is certainly a pristine market for it. Africa is seeking talents very much like Asia. Emmanuel Leslie, from TalentsInAfrica in Ghana presented another AI based solution for talent development and talent match. With a number of startups that exceed the number of Silicon Valley startups, Africa is moving extremely fast and talent acquisition is one of the limiting factors.

WIForum Digital Conference_Mutembei Kariuki_FastaggerWIForum Digital Conference_Peter Muchemi_Megashift

 

 

 

 

Two more innovators presented, Mutembei Kariuk from Fastagger in Kenya and Peter Muchemi from Megashift, also in Kenya. Last and definitely not least was a special highlight. Binay Raut, from Paaila in Nepal presented the first Artificial intelligence based Robot from Nepal. In less than a year, the team built a first greeting robot, then a more sophisticated robot for banks and was even able to export their robots to the US. During the pandemic, Paaila was the first to build a robot for hospitals, serving patience and reducing the risks for the care personnel. Just a few years ago, it was unthinkable to create AI based robots made in Nepal.

WIForum Digital Conference_Binay Raut_Paalia Technology

FINANCIAL COMPANY VALUATIONS

WIForum Digital Conference_Karim Raffa_Company ValuationThe most challenging finance question for startups is to create a meaningful and defensible company valuation. This challenge is the same, all over the planet. Karim Raffa, a finance expert, former entrepreneur and investor himself is educating startups to create valuations that attract investors but not ruining their capital. Karim is also helping investors to make meaningful offers, because asking for too much equity in the beginning may change the discussion quickly against both, investor and entrepreneur.

INVESTOR ROUND TABLE

WIForum Digital Conference_Fundraising PodiumWith investors from Cambodia [Christophe Forsinetti], Switzerland [Thomas Kern], and Vietnam [Duc Viet Nguyen], we had a great mix of representation from developing, fast emerging and developed nations. Investors from around the world look for gold nuggets. Average quality startups are nearing a million and have the highest risk. Lack of well structured FDI policies for equity foreign direct investments however still prohibit deep pocket investors to invest in these new countries. In Asia most startups move their HQs to Singapore and African companies to the UK, Singapore or Switzerland.

INNOVATION OF NATIONS

WIForum Digital Conference_Ndubuisi Ekekwe_Building the Innovation of Nations

We heard an intellectually demanding but to the point speech from Ndubuisi Ekekwe, about the importance of innovation for each nation as a key to competitiveness and prosperity. He talked about how good policies can unleash the power of innovation or limit them, and what economic frameworks can do to empower entrepreneurship to thrive and create jobs or disable their abilities and make them possibly leave their countries. He essentially delivered the recipe for politicians to make their countries thrive.

DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

Emmanuel Ndonga spoke about the unique opportunities for Africa. Almost 60% of the African population is under the age of 25 with untapped opportunities for growth and development. But Africa is not a country with a culture, it is continent 54 sovereign countries and a total population of 1.3 Billion with a fast growing number of university graduates. Emmanuel presented an amazing list of activities for governments and the population to get up and get autonomous, reducing external influence and becoming innovative – because they can. Similarly a great presentation from Ashwin Ravichandran who spent many years in Africa, and helped hundreds of entrepreneurs build their businesses and thrive. Africa has changed dramatically in the past 10 years and the biggest shift is yet to come.

THE INFLUENCE OF EDUCATION

WIForum Digital Conference_Dr. Ram Shrestha_Innovation in NepalEducation, in particular education for innovative thinking, like it is practices in Switzerland, was addressed by Dr. Ram Shrestha Ph.D., Vice Chancellor of the Kathmandu University. He gave insights into how and why Nepal should accelerate their motivation to more entrepreneurship in Nepal. Later on Dr. Matthes Fleck, Ph.D. from the University for Science and Arts in Lucerne spoke about the talent development of entrepreneurs from western universities and the importance for startups to get access to those talents early on.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP GENDER NEUTRAL

WIForum Digital Conference_Female Entrepreneurship PodiumWIForum Chair and co-founder Marita Schultze organized a round table where female entrepreneurs including Clarisse Iribagiza from Rwanda, Sophie Meas from Cambodia and Prativa Pandey, Ph.D. from Nepal had a partly controversial discussion about the role women in entrepreneurship. In some countries it is not even a discussion about the gender sensitivity, yet in others societies, women are still discriminated in so many ways, like in Nepal, so that the entrepreneurship aspect is just a side effect.

NEURO IDEATION

WIForum Digital Conference_Neuro IdeationThe most advanced technique to create innovative and disruptive ideas and turn them into reality is Neuro Ideation. Attendees learned how the brain actually composes ideas and how they are processed so that innovation can happen. The concept of Neuro Ideation is brand new and puts emerging countries and developed countries on a even playing level. Rapid idea development, accompanied by a disruptive business model can happen as quickly as 3 weeks but no longer than 6 months. The Deep Innovation Design method, with neuro ideation at its core fundamentally changes the act of innovation and disrupts innovation itself. The world Innovations Forum, together with the Society3 Group will be empowering entrepreneurs independent of which country they are from.

INNOVATION FIGHTING PANDEMICS

WIForum Digital Conference_Cafer Tosun_Innovate Fighting PandemicsAnother highly innovation related topic, that is very timely as well, was presented by Cafer Tosun, an SAP executive and Advisory Board Member to the WIForum. Innovation Fighting Pandemic, is an initiative, led by Cafer Tosun, leveraging the innovative spirit to fight covid-19. After a short but intense campaign to wear a mask, the campaign was reduced in intensity after 62 countries announced masks are mandatory or at least highly recommended. He shared some details about a new project where innovative thinking was applied in its truest sense. A concept to eradicate covid-19 neither by vaccines or treatment but by mass testing and stopping the transfer of the virus. The method and concept to do so came neither from the technology sector nor from the medical sector, but from the genetics space. There is a good chance to test millions of people per day and up to 5 billion in a week. We will be providing updates after the next tests in a few days.

THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE VISION IN EACH COUNTRY

During the three days we also heard from our Country Ambassadors: Dung Trung Nguyen [Vietnam], Khem Lakai [Nepal], Christella Uwamahoro [Rwanda],  Eunice Nyandat [Kenya] and MacCarthy Mac-Gbathy [Ghana]. With each of them we discussed what is attractive in their country for those seeking entrepreneurship opportunities, how fast they develop and what the possibilities are for foreigner who may help build their respecting nations. History has shown that there have been many “Lands of Opportunity” in the past: Egypt, Greece, Rome, the UK, the US to name just a few. All have been nearly world dominating – none have ever seen true world domination. Now, there are many different lands of opportunities popping up almost at the same time. Maybe it is the time humankind realizes that we can only reach our best potential when all other nations reach their best potential as well.

WIForum Digital Conference_Vietnam AmbassadorWIForum Digital Conference_Nepal Ambassador

WIForum Digital Conference_Rwanda AmbassadorWIForum Digital Conference_Kenya Ambassador

 

 

 

 

WIForum Digital Conference_Ghana Ambassador

THE FUTURE OF NATIONS

It is no longer a futuristic vision, that emerging countries will become a significant contributor to our global economy. Well aware of what worked and what didn’t in the past, most entrepreneurs of the future are very well aware that companies with 100,000+ employees are most likely not the future of the global economy but highly agile specialists connecting and collaborating with each other. The makers movement in China has already proven that millions of people are producing a small number of unique components faster, better and less expensive than any other nation. The advantage is not the cheap labor as labor cost rises in Shenzhen very quickly as well – the advantage is an unparalleled agility. The other mega challenge is global energy consumption. As more and more emerging countries are rising, so is their energy hunger. Also here, ingenuity and unique entrepreneurs working on various energy related projects such as geothermal energy development in Kenya, where 40% of Kenya’s energy consumption is generated by that technology. Geothermal development in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda will provide much-needed environmentally sustainable energy, maybe one day for all of us. Similarly is the development in South East Asia rapidly moving towards better technology, far more automation than in any other area in the World. Singapore can be called the most advanced nation in the world with an unseen before balance between human development, nature protection, sustainable planning for the future and a nowhere else achieved lifestyle. The 4.4 Billion Asians plus 1.4 billion Africans represent not only by far the largest markets on earth but also the most agile development and most innovation hungry young generation. The biggest advantage of this 5.8 billion population (75% of all people) is their low level of protectionism, bureaucracy and innovation blocking interest groups.

By 2030 we can expect developed nations will be doubling and by 2040 doubling again, which means more than half of the nations are having a status of developed country.

WIForum Digital Conference_Axel Schultze

Axel Schultze, the World Innovations Forum chairman closes by saying “Even the world’s strongest nation will unfold it’s biggest potential, at the day every other country has reached theirs”.

The next World Innovations Forum Global Conference is scheduled to be held in June 2022.

The whole WIForum Team in Switzerland as well as all our national teams in the respective countries like to thank everybody for their amazing contribution and participation in this years event.

 

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.

 

 

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

ASIA TOUR FALL 2019 HIGHLIGHTS

Mid-December, we returned from our third 2-month long work to Asia. This time we started our activities Phnom Phen and later on ran our very first Accelerator (Flight 8) in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. At the end of the trip, we spend time at the Tech Fest in Halon Bay in the north of Vietnam.

START IN CAMBODIA

What a fast emerging nation. After the typical get to know each other and what our plans are, we have been very welcomed. At our entrepreneurs night at THE DESK in Phnom Penh, we met three amazing teams with very creative ideas. One is building a business that focuses entirely on e-commerce returns and its entire logistical challenges for any e-commerce operation that is not as powerful as Amazon. Another team, also in the e-commerce business, found a way to build a hybrid for small shops with no digital affinity to slowly emerge into the digital world by offering a scalable model from no digital to fully digital. And a third company is bold enough to actually stand up to Amazon and Alibaba by building an e-commerce platform with already over 100,000 products, mainly from China, at a purchase price level of the likes of Amazon. Bun, the founder, had already built a successful startup in Phnom Penh and had an exit with which he started his new company. All three joined the Accelerator program in Vietnam 3 weeks later. The event at THE DESK, who thankfully hosted the World Innovations Forum, had a significant impact on us and the ecosystem in Cambodia.


FRIENDSHIPS IN VIETNAM

Our first visit to Vietnam was at a charity event from an already old friend from previous visits. His family is helping disadvantaged people, mostly women who are helping others. A very inspiring event with very moving examples of their work. It also shows that Vietnam is on its fast rise upwards where people make a lot of money but probably sooner than in other societies give back to those in need. In general, it was a great start meeting with all the people we met before. Since we are not a stiff and programmatic organization but people that love to work with people, friendships come more naturally. We believe it is what is needed to create impact rather than the impact on a report for donors.

Another old friend from the other side of the planet surprised me in Vietnam, Bill Reichert from Silicon Valley’s iconic Venture Capital firm, Garage Ventures. Yes, it’s a small world :) We found each other at the podium of the opening ceremony of the TechFest.


ACCELERATOR FLIGHT 8

Our first seven accelerator flights have been before our work in emerging countries and were attended mostly by entrepreneurs from developed countries. The only exception was Flight 4, which was a spontaneous “Refugee Accelerator.” There we tried to help entrepreneurial refugees from Syria and Afghanistan to start their own business in Berlin, Germany, and instead of seeking jobs creating jobs. The result was four companies created, and two years later, 36 jobs created plus one going back and now helping entrepreneurs in Afghanistan to start their own business.

But Flight 8 is different. We have teams from Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, and South Korea. After the first day when the ice has broken the teams ramped up very quickly. Initially not sure if it would be a good idea to grow a large business, all have been inspired to become a business owner that creates jobs and contributes to the economy. The idea of disruption and standing out of the crowd is very diverse to the various cultures in Asia. The Asian culture is very inclusive; we are all one; nobody is extraordinary. But understanding that the CEO must not be the superhero above all heroes and stand out of the crowd, but the products they introduce together with their teams must stand out helped understand the subtle difference between people and the action or product. While I write this post, the program is still going on but now as an online collaboration with video conferences. Not only it helps doing this remotely – most importantly, it helps to collaborate in the digital space truly — something the West still has to learn.


PARTNERSHIP WITH ICM AND SONCHAN

A new and very strategic partnership was formed with the Innovation Capital Management group that joined our global WIForum Innovation Capital Network. It’s the first investors’ group we have on board. The common ground is to make investments into startups in emerging countries much more accessible and to attract foreign investors by offering standardized stock purchase agreements in the English language with a notarized translation into the local language. The ICN project is still in the making but will be rolled out globally in 2020. Local investor groups from the countries we work in, such as Angel groups or venture capital firms, can join and collaborate on a framework that allows cross country investments, as long as the respective Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for private equity exits ts in the respective country.

Another important partnership signed Marita with the SunChan Incubator with multiple locations in Vietnam. The idea is to help the organization adapt our new Innopreneurs Academy Program, an accelerator framework that allows the partners to work with a full-blown business model through a much-extended program, including corporate innovators and mid-market businesses. The signing happened during the TechFest in Halong Bay.


TECH FEST 2019

At the end of our stay, we visited a fantastic TechFest 2019 in the beautiful Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. We performed several workshops, gave keynotes, and conducted lots of meetings.

It was a pleasure and honor to meet the Minister for Science and Technology, Tran Van Tung, during the event and together on one of the podium discussions. You feel the ambition and energy of the country all the way to the top political ranks, very different than most other Southeast Asian countries. You literally feel the energy in Vietnam.

Approximately 8,000 people attended the four-day event, and approximately 1,000 invited guests enjoyed a fantastic show at the opening ceremony. About 300 startups exhibited their products that ranged from helpful mobile apps to highly sophisticated, artificial intelligence-based, business applications. The event was very professionally organized and demonstrated the power of Vietnam to be the next big name in Asia.


GOING FORWARD

In 2020 we are launching our “Seeding Innovation” initiative and get very focused on identifying entrepreneurs’ talents that have the credentials to develop highly innovative solutions and disruptive business models. With the Innovations Paradigm Model and the methodical approach to “Innovative Thinking,” “Innovation Design Process,” and “Innovation to Market Model,” we believe we can help South East Asian countries to get to genuinely groundbreaking innovations. That helps propel their respective nations to autonomous developed countries and significant contributors to a global prosperity effort, eradicating poverty.

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

Quite a lot of the readers of this blog actually are one of the top 1% wealthiest people in the world. But because the majority of our readers lives in developing or emerging countries, they are not. There have been countless discussions why or why not, what we can do to stop the rapid widening of the gap between rich and poor. But what can we actually do? How can somebody help while in their own career stress?

Source: Washington Post chart

Enjoy your wealth – seriously do. Just also recognize your share of responsibility.

Since 2017 we are working on that question. Since 1960,  $4.7 Trillion have been donated to development aid with little result. The number of annual donations is growing rapidly to approx $ 1 Trillion per year now. An income of $32,400 per year would allow someone to be among the top 1% of income earners in the world. Multi billionaires today are what was a multi millionaire in the last century.

As part of our work, we met with many members of emerging – or developing countries and realized some shocking situations. We selected the top three reasons and some conclusions together. In late 2018 we completely reworked our approach of helping entrepreneurs. And we realized a path in development aid that has never been touched before.

Identifying the root cause(s)

We were working hard to identifying root causes. We realized, it didn’t happen just randomly. It happened because of many individual reasons. And there are three reasons with the biggest negative impact as far as I can see.

1) GROWING DONATIONS

Mankind donated enormous sums of money to help the poor. Over time as some got richer, they donated more and more. More NGOs have been created to help distribute the aid. All in the very best intentions. Only rarely money goes elsewhere. On the surface it looks good. But when looking under the hood, it looks very different – even dramatic. The money donated did not make a difference. Nobody really know where to start, whom to give it to and so it was given t the poorest. They consumed it, survived, but did not change the economy. A dramatic development happened. As long as donations were flowing into the country, the people got smarter about what to do to get donations and even more donations. Not because they are greedy and lazy – simply because that has become part of their “economy”. The system that we (the developed countries) instituted was simply wrong. Instead of helping the strongest to build an economy we helped the weakest and built nothing. I feel this is the hardest part to admit – but we have to. I spent time with people in Vietnam, Nepal, South Korea, Peru, Germany, Switzerland, Albania…. In the end I came to the conclusion: We have to slowly but steadily stop random donations and make impact specific donations to help build economies if they are actually wanted.

2) ZERO EDUCATION ON WEALTH DEVELOPMENT

Children have on average 20,000 hours of school. This is true for developed countries as well as many emerging countries including Ghana, Nigeria, or Peru. They learn reading, writing, calculating, and learn about history, geography, physics, biology and so forth.
However – not a single hour is given on how to acquire wealth. Creating wealth can now be easily found on the Internet. It’s used by some and the number of rich people is growing rather quickly. In accordance to Investopedia, 75% of the wealthiest people created their wealth as entrepreneur. Every nation is hungry for innovative entrepreneurs. Not because when rich they pay a lot of taxes but their business will fill the tax pockets. In contrast, those who do not know, coming from a background where getting rich is still equal to be “bad and greedy” are obviously falling behind.  My conclusion: Offering just one hour to explain that the rich “invest” their money, while the poor “spend” it. Giving some basic information and how to search it on the web would make a huge difference.

3) DEPLETION (Materials & Talents)

The developed world and now the top emerging countries are big in exploiting natural resources from foreign countries for peanuts. But the biggest problem – by order of magnitude – is to get the top talents of the poorest countries out and invite them to more attractive nations. With that we not only steal some top brains but the very foundation of a nation to create their own economy. The top nations in the world had only a very few super smart brains like Alfred Escher, Robert Schindler or  Henry Nestle in Switzerland — Carl Benz, Robert Bosch or  Werner v. Siemens in Germany — Lee Byung-Chul, Koo In-Hwoi or Chung Ju-Yung in South Korea — or William Shockley, Gordon Moor and Steven Jobs in Silicon Valley. Today it’s easy because most politicians – even in the developed world – simply don’t understand the impact.

DEVELOPMENT FROM WITHIN

With all that said, I personally and wholeheartedly trust that we need to broadly start inspiring and supporting the strongest entrepreneurs in each nation to stay there and realize their entrepreneurial dream, building successful businesses and export their ware as soon as possible. Their genuine creativity, coupled with their few of the local problems and the problems of other developing countries will bring solutions that can turn any of the nation into a developed country – and it won’t take much longer than 20 years. Yes, this goes against all the artificially created ideologies of inclusion and helping all the the ideas of equality and so forth. But the past 70 years has proven that this model did not work – despite 4,700,000,000,000 (4.7Trillion)  Dollars investment. At the same time the best of the best get nurtured and funded in Silicon Valley who then continue the rich/poor widening process. If we continue diluting the capital of the rich to just provide charity for the poor, instead of taking at least some money to build out economies that help them develop prosperity from within their society and provide education how ALL members of any given society can participate in that wealth – we will never have enough money to donate.

There are certainly more problems that cause the rich/poor gap. One of the biggest reasons is often pointing to corruption. The more we have been analysing that issue, the more we came to realization it is simply just another loud cry for helplessness, based on poverty and hunger to survive. I’m not defending corrupters but we can do better than pointing at them to find a somebody we can blame (Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen (Harvard), is a good read). And then there are hundreds of tiny issues. But all those issues have been very present in the 1800’s Germany or Switzerland, in the 1950’s farmland of Northern California and even more so in one of the poorest Asian countries: South Korea in the 1960’s.

Consequence

Of course we do not expect that the world is following our concept. For us, the consequence is to build strong and innovative entrepreneurship from within the countries. This is a long and painful path as any startup in the west or in the east, north or south, is taking approximately 10 years to grow from zero to an economy relevant size. But we feel it’s better to start now than hoping for a majical shortcut to become “rich in 30 days”. NGO projects usually go 1 – 4 years. Far too short to actually get anything notable done. And so we are looking for philanthropists, donors and other giving organization that go this long path with us. If you like to help as a volunteer, donor, international investor (investing in promising startups) or in any other capacity – your support is deeply appreciated.

 

Meeting with the ITP leadership team of the University of Ho Chi Minh City. An impressive presentation where Vietnam is planning to go what innovative businesses concerns.  We also had some great meetings with students, who are very ambitious and eager to learn everything possible about innovative thinking and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs Workshop with roughly 20 top startups and scaleups from Ho Chi Minh City. It was great fun to work with these super engaged and highly competitive teams. One of the things that all of them have in common with any top startup in the world: determination to win.

Investors meetings at the Kova facility. We discussed investor strategies, ways to select startups, due diligence processes and post investment mentoring. We also talked about the necessity to keep top companies in the country to not loose the innovative edge to somebody else.

A wonderful and very personal dinner at the Kova house. We enjoyed traditional Vietnamese food cooked by the lady of the house herself. This was an unforgettable evening.

Great discussions about innovative thinking, investment opportunities, ways to stimulate more innovation and getting startups better supported to be able to compete on a global scale. It was an amazing evening with amazing people.


HANOI

The future of innovation in Vietnam, Conference. Great and an amazing diverse speakers, high energy and very ambitious. We talked about the innovation paradigm and the value of going global for the national prosperity and wealth development.

We were invited by the University of Hanoi to speak about the Innovation Paradigm, the value creation for the national economy and what Vietnam can do to create an innovation economy within the country.

Interesting discussions about how to stimulate innovation and making innovation an even stronger point within an economy. Also we spoke about the value of speaking English as a prerequisite to participate in the global economy.

Meanwhile, Marita ran a workshop for female entrepreneurs. The interest to participate was so overwhelming that the initial 12 people roundtable had to be turned into a 70 attendee  presentation and podiums discussion.

Full house at the female entrepreneurs meeting in Hanoi

A very interesting meeting at one of the largest mobile phone providers. The organization is determined to innovate and bring all new ideas to their customers. It is absolutely amazing to see how Vietnam turned from a rather poor country, dependent on donations, just three decades ago, into a vibrant emerging country.


An equally great meeting at one of the top business banks of Vietnam. Also here, business transformation, innovation and moving from an industry follower to an industry leader is an amazing transition. We talked about how innovative thinking is not just improving the status quo but how to get to an idealistic model and back to reality.

One week with great teams, jar dropping innovation spaces and top notch universities.

Our work in South Korea, with our ambassador and team was very exciting. South Korea is certainly no longer an “emerging country”. It bypassed many of the developed countries.

Startup ecosystem of the superlative. South Korea’s brand new Innovation hub is certainly the most mondain, most modern and best equipped incubation campus in the world. Startups, scaleUps and SME’s on hypergrowth don’t miss anything here. Whether its a photo and video studio, conference rooms of any size, offices of any shape, restaurants and countless other amenities. This is very hard to top.

Introduction to the Seoul Innovation Ecosystem, it’s focus to take business global and its quest to build more Samsung, LG or Hyundai type companies.

Entrepreneurs Workshop at the University of Seoul. A variety of students, even from foreign countries participated to learn all about innovative thinking, the innovation paradigm and how most innovative companies became the core of a country’s economy.

Investor Workshop for South Korean Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists and institutional investors.

A great view onto Seoul by night from one of the largest towers in the South Korean metropoly

Private World Innovations Forum Dinner with industry leaders from both Asia and Europe. We were discussing how Innovation is not just a way to build new technologies but innovation being the economic foundation of any leading nation.

And a final Entrepreneurs Event with pitching contest in the Seoul Startup Hub. This incubator just complete the expansion and is now good for almost 1,000 startups. Five selected startups pitched in front of an audience from the SSH and showed their ability to innovate.