THE QUEST FOR MORE INNOVATION

The last five to ten years, pretty much any business and any government was pushing for more innovation. But if somebody was asked “How do I innovate? Tell me step by step”, there was no tangible answer. When I was asked that very question, in particular the “step by step” part, it daunted to me, that there was simply no answer that could satisfy this question. Tens of thousands of consultants help people to “open their mind”, other use the “design thinking” model to process ideas – actually very well. But the question remains: “How do you CREATE those innovative ideas” that you can then process in a design thinking model!

INNOVATION ON DEMAND

Innovation was an accidental event – a combination of many instances, experiences and the brain pushed out an idea. Mostly it was big enough to warrant starting a whole new business. NOW – today we have a situation where we don’t want to have an accidental brain flash leading to a possible innovation. In times where we have a crisis we actually would want to have solutions on demand.  But as long as we don’t even know how ideas are created, we are far away from creating ideas on demand.

THE BIG SHIFT IN INNOVATION HISTORY

Neuroscientists helped me understand that human beings are not really creative – we can only COMPOSE ideas from past experiences, from whatever we saw, heard, felt and so forth. All new experiences are actually get associated with existing experiences and create some interesting IDEAS of which we actually don’t really know. The biggest idea machine is our mind when we sleep. There is much to explain but the net of it is: We are not creative and we create ideas by the millions. So what is the problem?

Our life, our culture, our education and our brain itself, are all conditioned to allow only the most obvious and the least demanding deas to pop up. ONly 1 in a trillion or less is actually making it from our right brain to the left and stimulates a communication between the two that forms a “thought” that may break through all the other barriers. And once we understand that process, we have the foundation for creating innovation on demand, like we create a house or bridge or as simple as a paper plane.

DEEP INNOVATION DESIGN

in 2016 we began our first careful attempts to help startups to come up with disruptive business models. What was a one of a million chance we were able to get more than 50% of the startups coming up with disruptive models. Creating, what we call a “Disruptive Moment” was defined as an innovative idea that will push competitors to change their course in order to catch up with these startups. It was an early attempt to get this done. in the past two years we went deeper into the “mechanics of our mind” to learn what we need to actually DO to play with our billions of neurons and synapses to form those innovative ideas. After two years of work we found an early concept that works well enough to come up with innovative solutions whenever we want, using the deep innovation design method:

Four ‘T”s one “M” of Deep Innovation Design

1) TALENT
We need talents that are talented for creating innovation like others are talented to play music, paint pictures, drive race cars, cook amazing meals, create fashion, help others or simply entertain people.
2) TEAM
Like a music band, or a football team, innovation is a team sport – if you do it alone you end up waiting for accidental ideas. And one of the most important player in the “Innovation Play”, are the affected people: Customers, users, victimes, if you start the game without them you are doomed to lose. And if your actors (innovators) are all of the same trade, you will lose as well. Diversity is the magic formula. Understanding that part makes it also very obvious why enterprises CANNOT be innovative. They try to surprise the customer with their ideas and the ideas come from a mono culture called R&D center, engineering teams or other experts.
3) TRAINING
Our brain is an old machine with lots of upgrades. More upgrades than any other organ in our human apparatus. It is also the most adaptive body part. To overcome some of the 300,000 year old habits and some even go back 5 million years we need to train our brain. I often wonder how long our children would crawl if we never help them to walk. We need to train our bran in opening a treasure chest that is heavily guarded by about 200 million nerve strands or Axons, our so called Corpus Callosum.
With good talents and a great team we actually can.
4) TOOLS
You know the say “I think my head explodes”- right. And that is always when you reach your capacity limits of learning or thinking, or comprehending – or – innovating. In an interesting way, it’s all the same. Since the last 12,000 years we experience this more and more often and we built more and more tools and ever bigger teams to deal with exactly that problem. And so also we developed tools, methods and finally technology that shall help us to go through this rather demanding process. And guess what – it is no different from what athletes perform in their contests, musicians on stage, race driver on the street or on the water, and so forth. We realized that we can easily loos one or two Kilo of body weight, during such processes.
5) MARKET
Here is when the rubber meets the road. There are an estimated 100 Million patents in drawers that have been never used. The initial value of an innovation is exactly ZERO. The value then grows with the size of its distribution. We can be as innovative as we want – if we can make it available to a market or the market is not interesting, the value remains to be zero. In the end, sales channels, creative marketing, service and support organizations, transport (and if it the Internet) are ky to the success of any innovation. This success is seen best, when we look through the macroeconomic lense: A company creates a product. It is sold through distribution and dealer channels, it is shipped across all oceans, it is serviced locally, maybe education organizations provide training, maybe consulting companies help apply the product. At the same time new ideas pop up from companies that build add-ons to that product and create the same sub-market and all of a sudden a company with 5,000 employees actually creates 50,000 indirect jobs.

How to start from here

On April 23, the Society3 Group who worked on the Deep Innovation Design Model for four years is providing a free online seminar (webinar) and explaining how the Deep Innovation Design Model works, where you can get trained and how you get involved in this new model. www.society3.com/webinars/. The World Innovations Forum is providing the training programs and support in emerging countries and is able to provide stipends for talented innovators to learn how to be extremely innovative.

The 7 virtues of idea validation

  1. The absolute very first people you go to, are your potential customers. Listen very carefully what they say.
  2. Never ever fear that anybody can “steal” your idea. This is a myth that seem to never go away under first time entrepreneurs. That fear, by the way, is the no.1 reason why millions of great ideas vanish away and never see the light of day. Don’t bother your future clients with NDAs or other legal confrontation. This makes no sense.
  3. Interview your target audience BEFORE you spend a single penny or minute in prototyping or writing your first lines of code. Everything you do prior to speaking with them is pre-conditioning your thoughts. That bears the risk that you may start arguing with your contact.
  4. Structure the interview around 3 strategically craft questions:
    a) “How would the proposed idea help you?” Let them tell you their possible story, don’t “sell” your idea.
    b) “If you would build it, what would you charge, where would you see a good price point”. Find out what value they see.
    c) “What would you do 9 month later, if I would tell you the product is no longer available. What would be your alternative?” Find out if you have just a nice to have or it would be a serious problem when your idea is not maturing.
  5. Put yourself in a state of “very awake meditation”. Meaning you are hyper carefully listen, you never argue even a tiny bit, and you document not only what they say but also the emotions you noticed. Consider yourself an emotionless AI based Robot. When they don’t get what you say, make a note and trim your presentation.
  6. Don’t ever bother ‘potential customers’ with any type of faceless survey.
  7. Make sure you speak with at least 42 people. That number is important:
    – it has some undocumented statistical value
    – it forces you to find enough potential customers to start with
    – if you find only less than 42, it indicates that it will never warrant a business
    – you get the necessary feedback to decide your MVP functionality
    – it helps you understand how much time you spend to find, reach and talk with your audience – first indication for customer acquisition cost.
    – if you can’t get at least 20 positive feedbacks, continue until you have 20,

This is called idea & first market validation and is a key process in every top notch startup – BEFORE it was a real startup.

Most people just go and run. They fail but fail far later and have a 90% failure rate. Even though every startup entrepreneur today knows, that they ave only a 10% chance to win, they are sloppy right out of the gate :)

I get about 5 questions like that every day. And since I’m rather lazy, I wrote this post :)

Hope it’s helpful.

 

A big Thank you to all WIForum Ambassadors, Team members, Advisors, CoWorking Spaces, Volunteers, Community Members, Country Representatives and helping hands We couldn’t be more thankful for every one of you in the big WIF family. Without your knowledge, inputs, generosity, and helping hands, we could not realize the vision of a world where prosperity is possible in all nations, through innovation and entrepreneurship – created within each country.

About doing good

Happy Birthday, World Innovations Forum! February 28, 2019 the foundation was registered with the vision to help nations become prosper through their own way of unfolding the power of innovation and entrepreneurship.

NOTE: everything that follows is through the lens of “economic development”. We are not talking about support organizations in disaster areas, humanitarian aid for health care, victims of war and so forth. Because the purpose of our organization is eradicating poverty, hunger and inequality by creating prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship, similar to how developed nations evolved.

During our learning curve, we noticed that about US$4.7 trillion has been invested in the past 50 years in economic development. We also learned that the majority of people have not been very excited about the results. Initially, we looked at what other NGOs are doing and tried to blend in. That was a bad idea. Then we tried to find a balance between our entrepreneurial for-profit business with processes and mechanisms from non-profit organizations. It was no better. We read annual reports from similar organizations and realized that many just try very hard to be a good NGO. And a good “active” NGO is an organization that does exactly what a “giver” organization is looking for. Those giver organizations actually decide what active NGOs have to do in order to get funds. Well formulated goals, packed with keywords like “inclusion”, “climate”, “sustainability”, “equality”, “impact”, “social”, “approach”, “reporting”, “jobs created within 12 months”, “project run time 24 month” and so forth. We quickly recognized that instead of looking for funding for our unique concepts, we need to be a service organization for those who provide projects based on their research and desires of their donors. It’s a highly organized, massively structured multi-billion dollar operation. Active NGOs are super busy filing proposals for project requests, making sure they have the resources and a track record that indicates that the respective organization fulfilled the expectation of the giver organization in the past. To simplify the model, it’s a 4 tier monetary distribution structure: Donor – Distributor – Implementer – Beneficiary. This made NGOs more transparent, more efficient, more operational savvy, more trustworthy than ever before. And all have one common objective: HELPING those who are in need. This looks like a great model with little to no waste of money and the donations are really impact-focused. The first big question we had to answer: Are we willing to become an executing service organization for other NGOs. It was not exactly what we had in mind when we started. But we know, there is more to learn.

The receiver side

From day one till now, we decided to work on the ground. So when we visited countries and worked with young entrepreneurs or those who want to become one, we feel the heartbeat and learn how we can support them best. Amazingly, we experienced a warm welcome from entrepreneurs. We realized they rarely an opportunity to speak with experienced entrepreneurs from other countries. When we talked to local co-working spaces, accelerators and investors, we experienced a much more critical position. “What is your plan, what is your approach, what do you want to do?” our answer was always the same: “We have no plan, there is no approach, we don’t know what we will do. You will tell us how we can be helpful and we see what we can do”. We experienced an amazing transformation from a polite and professional welcome to a warm and friendly ‘love to hear your story’. Over time we heard lots of stories about support organization. To sum it up and make a narrative: “They come here, have a clear plan, based on what their sponsors tell them to do, execute “their plan”, make a lot of stirrup, then come with a team of professional photographers and camera men where everybody smiles, write reports and go back home to hunt for the next round of funding. We appreciate the help but often times it’s just too much work for us with no progress at all”. So why do you do that? we asked. Answer: We are not in a position to say no. Again, our own position was up for discussion: Are we in a position to say no and follow our own entrepreneurial instincts? So far we met and spoke with roughly 1,000 entrepreneurs and startups from a variety of countries including Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Peru, and a few others. We met with about 50 investors and investor networks, more than 50 co-working spaces, universities other enablers and with several leading politicians in various capacities. We ran two accelerator programs and a series of entrepreneurs workshops. The feedback was inspiring and moving.

The big drivers, and why innovation is zero

Who drives the Trillion $ aid industry?
Governments need to balance out between public interest (tax payer money), national interest, and economic interest. So the donations are split into goals and objectives to balance the various interests, invested in countries that have a positive impact also back to the donating country. What they don’t DO is give money to those who work on the helper front. Nothing wrong with it, I believe, but good to know.
Individual Donors from average worker to ultra-wealthy billionaires. They usually can’t do anything themselves but feel the responsibility and donate from $1 to $1 billion and everything in between to help others. The most amazing aspects are 1) the gigantic amount of money that is aggregated so that we are close to actually really help everybody on earth and 2) how humans demonstrate an ability to organize themselves, their capital on a global scale almost seamlessly.
Corporate Donors from the developed world who either simply want to do good, or want to expand their business, access markets, identify new opportunities or any combination thereof. They either invest themselves or invest through those larger giver NGOs with clear goals.
Massive Giver NGOs with multi-billion $ portfolios who are extremely powerful, yet need to balance the interest of their donors, the political and geopolitical landscape, the overall trends like equality, climate etc., and make sure that the feedback from the “market” (the receiver or beneficiary) is positive and that the overhead to use the donations most effectively is tiny. They have come along way from: “most of the money is evaporating – like in the 1950’s “, to: “most of the money is actually invested in the causes and hit the space it is designated for – like today in the 2000’s”.
Operating Non-Profit Organizations with crystal clear designed requests from giver organization: what to do, where to do, how to do, how much budget is involved and the date they have to complete the task, It’s typically a 1, 2 or 4-year program.
Local Organizations, in the countries with the order to execute the plan they get from the Operating NGOs, funded by the big giver NGOs, with the donations from the individual or corporate sponsors. They have practically no flexibility and simply execute for the money they receive, in the way to program is structured. The sense for what’s needed on the ground is deteriorating and so is the true impact. The price for efficiency is in the end extremely high – non-profit or for-profit pay with the inability to innovate.

Disconnect

The disconnect between donations and real help is growing. Over the holidays 2019/2020 we felt that we either find a radically different model or freeze the operation until somebody else is coming up with a better idea. Since no model was in sight and we experienced the deep frustration from other organizations, we decided to use our own innovation design techniques to explore alternative ways. As a first step, we disconnected ourselves from the conventional NGO space in favor of the actual beneficiaries we live for. The goal is to overcome the problematic “disconnect” from the group of people we want to help and find a modus operandi to finance the organization in a different way. With that we did a few things that should help us think on different levels:
1) We removed the term NGO from our entire communication.
2) We made sure that – no matter what we do – we do not lose sight of our original vision.
3) We started to use our own model of innovative thinking to develop services and business models that make sense.
4) We crafted a whole new business model and will share details once it is more mature.
5) We accepted the risk, that by disrupting ourselves, we will lose most funding opportunities.
6) We decided to build partnerships with those who believe in the concept of a collective intellect, where 1+1 is more than 2.
We will publicly share our experience here on our blog for anybody who is interested in alternative business models and operations for their economic development focused non-profit organization.
7) In no way, we are disrespecting those on whose shoulders we are about to step. The evolution from random donation into random help organizations towards a more controlled and operation was of utmost importance for aggregating the capital to help with large scale projects. Yet the economy of scale as an optimum, not a maximum.

The New Model

  1. We focus everything we do on the target audience, the beneficiary, in our case the entrepreneurs. We also work intensely in collaboration with an enabler, people from co-working spaces, investors, mentors, universities who support the entrepreneurship development.
  2. We work with partners who buy into our vision, strategy, modus operandi, and business model. We are not available as a service resource for other organizations like we would not be a white-label manufacturer if we would be an enterprise.
  3. The business model we created is value-based like in any economic model. We feel that impact measurement will never be seriously acceptable to measure the value one provided. We expect each service having a value that can be charged that even the poorest can pay for. And if the beneficiary is only interested in our work if it is for free, we know there is no value and that would also indicate no impact. For instance in countries where people live off of $1 a day and need all their $30 to survive, we may still ask for 3 cent for our work, also in part to provide economic thinking. Since that would not cover our cost, we are still depending on donations and sponsorship. But those are not to help provide free work but to match and add to value for the beneficiaries.
  4. There are other activities like awareness creation and not directly monetizable activities. For these we look for sponsors like in any industry situation. If nobody is interested in supporting the awareness creation we may still receive donations, otherwise, our awareness campaign will just be very rudimentary. And that is OK.

There are more elements we are working on but for now, that is our alternative model for innovative non-profit organizations.

Next Steps

1) We believe in innovation on all levels – also for organization models.
2) Connecting with a like-minded organization to think together is part of our next steps.
3) After learning, entrepreneurship is the mother of all prosperity, we will continue with that very model.
4) Our focus is exclusively on our work on the ground in the countries and support from those who think alike.
5) We will look or partnerships in the spirit of SDG 17 as we believe there is no NGO big enough to solve the world’s problems alone
6) Innovation in the NGO space is not only an organizational necessity but paramount to actually fulfill our goals.

 

 

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.

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

I’ve been asked so many times that I felt it would be good to write a blog post.
Obviously there are many consulting services, software developer and others who could built your MVP in a rather short period of time. Then you get what you asked for and can enter the market. If customers report bugs, you go back to your developer. And you hire them again and again – or you ignore the requests for now until you get more funding. It sounds totally logical. However reality tells a very different story:

Your MVP is a barebone minimum solution. It is supposed to be up rather quickly and your customers tell you what they experience, what they like and what they don’t like. If you have a CTO, it is not just taking the bug reports but carefully listening to each request. Each discussion with a customer contains a wealth of insights about how they use the product, what key benefits they have or want to have, how it is or should be integrated in other technologies and so forth. From that moment on you get probably daily requests for changes and more important lots of tiny little cool ideas that your developer or developer team can implement. I remember we received 1,400 feature requests, update requests and bugs within the first three month. You can’t pay your outsourcing organization to handle that.

Moreover our CTO saw what directions this will take and prepared the platform a bit differently. In the first six months, he was involved in almost any customer discussion. He needed to know and feel where this is going. More importantly he sensed functionalities based on the customer stories that led to functionalities they didn’t dear to ask but made a lot of sense and was no problem to do. The CTO is the one person who shapes the product, the future technology decisions and the technological direction of the company like nobody else. This cannot be outsourced – not at reasonable cost.

On top of all, the CTO does not try to build an MVP that meets the specification you gave them. The CTO is building the foundation of a solution that will change the world in the future and crafts an MVP that acts like the first cell of an organism.

Early Adopter Customer

If you have a sensational new application, you won’t get typical customers. Those ask you who else is using it, how many customers you have, are you funded and so forth. And so you have to look for early adopters. Thos premium customers are willing to check out new things because also they want to lead their market. BUt if you tell them that the technology was done by a freelancer, outsources, service organization or a like they get less motivated. They are taking a risk, dealing with a ne technology – but far less so when there is no CTO.

With all that said, there should be no reason to hire a consultant, rather than involving a top notch technologist.

Hire or Co-Founder?

first: as a startup you just cannot hire a top performing developer. No matter what you offer to pay. Therefore attract them as co-founder. Yes, they are hard to find and you want to start. But there is no shortcut what so ever. If that technology is a core element and differentiator of your business, than the person that builds it and develops it further over the next 10 years should have a seat on the founders bench.

As an investor

I would never invest in a company that outsources their development. It’s too clear that there is no technological focus or the technology doesn’t play any important role. It also shows that the founder could not attract any co-founder and I must ask: can they attract customers?

All in all the number of reasons for a co-founder CTO outweigh the short term benefit of getting a MVP slapped together for a demo.

As a precursor let me try to define success, as I see it, to put all this in context:
Success is when I achieve or exceed my very own dreams – not what others tell me I should do to be ‘successful’. No dream no success. Yet, to achieve or exceed an entrepreneurial dream is a successful entrepreneur.

What traits make truly successful entrepreneurs?

Founders are often seen as magicians. And maybe they are to a certain degree. The more we see and interview, the more we understand about their key traits. Here are the 10 most relevant founders traits, I observed by working with some of the top CEOs and over 1,000 startups.  Each of the traits are not ‘sort of having a little bit of that too’ – instead are especially standing out as extremely developed trait. If any one is missing or weak – it seriously weakens the entrepreneurial profile. You may also notice an important interconnection between these traits – again missing one cripples the complete concept.

1) fearless / risk taking
Absolutely does not fear anybody or anything. There is no higher up person for an entrepreneur. There is no rule that is respected and no definition that is taken just as that. They fear no failure, they fear no total loss, they fear not to be laughed at.  They do not fear to risk everything they have for their vision – and they do risk everything they have.
[Related with: (2) creative, (3) determined, (4) curious, (5) independent, (6) confident, (7) connected, (8) communicative] Corresponding habits: making fast and determined decisions

2) creative / compositive
The ability to be creativity means finding a gazillion bits and pieces in your brain and composing it in no time to a new picture. Creativity requires maximum inputs, from travel, discussions, reading… Being compositive is the ability to very quickly identify opportunities and turning them into business cases or even innovation. Experiment fearlessly, no matter what the outcome maybe.
[Related with: (1) fearless] Corresponding habits: Seem to change course over and over again. But never lose sight of the ultimate goal. Knowing there is never a straight line to get to the top.

3) determined
Determination is a mindset. Doing anything, whatever it takes to make something happen. No irritation from others, no distraction, no uncertainty. Determined entrepreneurs never give up – ever. If you are bankrupt, you still have 3 to 6 month to repair and get up again.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (2) creative / compositive] Corresponding habits: Consistency – Pushing the direction in everybody’s mind – every day. There is only one vision, one ultimate goal and they let everybody know. They plan their days towards their goals – not towards responses to others.

4) curious/open
Wide open mind. Wanting to really know in detail how things work, how people do things, how we live, what the barriers are, where the limits maybe if any. Listening to others very carefully, without constructing an argument half way through.
[Related with: (1) fearless] Corresponding habits: Playful – They look very quickly at all kinds of things, want to know everything without ever going really deep. 20% of the knowledge is all they need to know 80% of what there is to know.

5) independent
There is nothing and nobody that prevents the entrepreneur do their things. No friend, no family, no lack of money, no rules, no legislation can get into their way. Societal rules, conformism and alike fences are respected but do not apply to entrepreneurs. [Related with: (1) fearless, (3) determined] Corresponding habits: Super-Focus – There seem to have no family, not even seeing other people with certain personal needs. It’s important to understand that independence often feels like ruthless – but it is the vision that is much larger than live that drives these people to almost impossible results and that means independent behavior. Most people only begin to understand when such a vision was fulfilled.

6) confident
Once an idea is manifested, true entrepreneurs have no doubt that it will work. They just know it will. The extraordinary confidence comes from a ‘brain defect’ that spills emotional knowledge from the right brain half into the brain without consulting the rational part of the brain.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (3) determined, (5) independent] Corresponding habits: Decision Maker – fast decision making, often others feel to be run over, turns sometimes into arrogance. They don’t deal with devils advocates and uncertainty of others. They simply have that trait to know.

7) connected
True entrepreneurs are always highly connected. Connected with their market, connected with the player, connected with customers or targeted customer, connected with investors, influencers, industry associations and so forth. Entrepreneurs have no issues to connect to anybody.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (4) curious, (6) confident] Corresponding habits: Networking – They connect with almost everybody, then maintain only those that are relevant. May sometimes feel a bit superficial, yet they make almost everybody feel important. They know that connections are more precious than gold and they know how to deal with it.

8) communicative
Communication is the most important skill humans developed. We can communicate with words, text, pictures and even preserve past events. That helps us learn beyond any animal. Top entrepreneurs are masters in communication with others, drawing an imaginary world that they are seeing in the future and attract others. At the same time they can sit and truly listen for an hour and construct the situation they hear into a solution and opportunity. Learning and sharing – in this order – are the keys to entrepreneurial communication.
[Related with:  (1) fearless, (2) compositive, (4) curious, (7) connected] Corresponding habits: Extroverted – They ask anything they need to know right at the moment they want to know. They listen and learn very intensely. They also tell everybody and their dog what they are up to, why it’s important. They spread the word about how they will change the world and expect everybody to do so too.

9) involving
Entrepreneurs are very involving. Involving their team, their customers, their market, their investors and their business partners to actively participate in their undertaking. Entrepreneurial involvement of others go way past the concept of delegation but truly inspire others and fearlessly pulling others into their gravitational powers.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (2) creative, (3) determined, (6) confident, (8) communicative] Corresponding habits: Engagement – They don’t worry too much if people have time for them. They simply ask and get people’s involvement. Sometimes it feels like they think they are the only important people on earth. And what they really think is they are one of the most important people on earth – often they actually are.

10) intelligent
While we may debate what intelligence is, here is our definition: “Intelligence is the ability to comprehend a never before experienced situation, abstract the essence and developing a solution by simply thinking through as many as reasonable options without trial and error”. In that sense, true entrepreneurs are intelligent and involve others to solve the problem.
[Related with: (4) curious, (8) communicative, (9) involving] Corresponding habits: Simplification – Breaking the most complex things down into a few or only one simple aspect. Pretty hard for some people to follow and ignore that everything else is just work to be finished.

Fearlessness is the most important glue in between all the key traits. And it is not just generally fearless – it means unconditional fearlessness. Top entrepreneurs have a lot of respect for others and other things, they do experience uncertainty but quickly and clearly decide where to go. Decision making is not a ‘trait’ but a skill – one can learn to make decision. However traits like being fearless, creative, determined, open, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are key traits for making good decisions and getting them executed.
It sounds like a very demanding profile – it is. As it turns out, only 0.007% of humans are actually successful entrepreneurs.

Few interesting things about this list:
a) None of it can be really ‘trained’ people my change towards, it but not necessarily trained.
b) They are all interconnected, not one goes without some of the others
c) If one or even more are missing the ability to be a successful entrepreneur is decaying very quickly
d) This is uniquely dedicated to entrepreneurs. Any other career or engagement has some of them but never all – and may have others, but they maybe not relevant for entrepreneurs. At least our finding when we compared it with Scientists, Artists, Politicians, Actors, Musicians, Architects, Athletes and so forth.

All in all, fearless, creative, determined, curious, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are the top 10 traits for entrepreneurs.

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.