In a world that’s rapidly advancing, where the intersection of technology and business continuously redefines industries, it’s imperative for corporate leaders to stay informed and adept. For those at the helm of management in large companies and for AI technologists, understanding the nuances of Innovation, Transformation, and Automation is not just a luxury—it’s a necessity.

1) The Core Differences: Innovation, Transformation, and Automation

  • Innovation can be visualized as the heartbeat of any forward-thinking organization. It’s the act of introducing something novel—be it a groundbreaking product, an ingenious process, or a revolutionary idea. The essence of innovation lies not just in conception but in execution. It’s about fresh thinking that manifests tangible value. But innovation isn’t a mere sporadic burst of creativity; it’s a continual commitment to pushing boundaries.
  • Transformation, on the other hand, is the phoenix of the corporate world. It signifies a metamorphic shift in how a company operates. This could encompass a change in its foundational business model, core operations, or even its cultural ethos. Unlike mere change, which is incremental, transformation is holistic, giving birth to an entirely renewed entity.
  • Automation is the application of technology designed to perform tasks with minimal human touchpoints. If innovation is the heart and transformation the soul, automation is the muscle of modern businesses. It’s about leveraging technology to its full potential, ensuring efficiency, consistency, and often, accuracy that the human hand might falter in.

2) Living Examples: Demonstrating the Power of Three

  • When we recall Innovation, Apple’s introduction of the iPhone is a luminary. Not just a new product, the iPhone changed how consumers thought about phones. It wasn’t just a device for calls—it became an integral part of our daily lives, blending communication, entertainment, and work.
  • Transformation has its cautionary tales, with Blockbuster being a prominent one. As streaming platforms rose to dominance, Blockbuster, once a giant in its realm, attempted to transition from physical stores to online content. Their journey underscores that transformation, while crucial, isn’t a guaranteed success but a strategic necessity.
  • And for Automation, car manufacturing offers a crisp illustration. The adoption of robotic arms in assembly lines has not only sped up production but also introduced a level of precision previously unattainable. Similarly, in the digital space, chatbots attending to customer queries at all hours exemplify automation’s prowess.

3) The Art of Choosing: When to Innovate, Transform, or Automate

  • Innovation is the tool of choice when exploring uncharted territories. Companies aiming to capture a new market segment, address a previously unidentified need, or offer a unique solution often lean on innovation. It’s about building a bridge where there’s been no path before.
  • Transformation is the answer when there’s a seismic shift in the industry landscape. When external factors—technological disruptions, changing consumer behaviors, or geopolitical shifts—demand that companies reinvent themselves, transformation becomes inevitable. It’s about ensuring the ship not only stays afloat but can navigate the new waters adeptly.
  • Automation becomes the focus when efficiency is the goal. Whether it’s to reduce overhead costs, eliminate repetitive tasks, or ensure a consistent quality of output, automation streamlines processes, making them more predictable and scalable.

4) Weighing the Economics and Strategy

  • Investing in Innovation can be a gamble. The R&D costs, market research, and prototype testing demand substantial financial commitments. However, successful innovations often yield exponential returns, granting companies not just revenue but a competitive edge.
  • Transformation is both a financial and cultural investment. Beyond capital allocation for new tools or business models, it demands a shift in mindset across the organization. The payoff, though, is longevity and continued relevance in an evolving marketplace.
  • Automation, while demanding initial technological investments, promises long-term savings. Reducing manual labor, minimizing errors, and accelerating processes, it ensures companies can deliver more for less.

5) Crafting and Executing: From Ideas to Reality

  • Innovation thrives in environments that nurture creativity. Beyond financial backing, it requires a cultural acceptance of risk, iterative testing, and a feedback-rich ecosystem. It’s a balance of brainstorming sessions, prototyping labs, and market tests.
  • Transformation is a marathon. It necessitates buy-in from all organizational levels, from the C-suite to the front-line employees. Often, external consultants, familiar with the transformation journey, can offer valuable insights. It’s a mix of strategy meetings, training sessions, and constant communication.
  • For Automation, technical prowess is paramount. Integrating new systems with legacy ones, ensuring staff training for automated tools, and maintaining these systems are integral. It’s about tech assessments, integration blueprints, and regular software updates.


As we stand at the cusp of a future molded by AI, understanding the trinity of Innovation, Transformation, and Automation becomes crucial. For management and AI technologists, it’s not about choosing one over the other but discerning which to leverage when, ensuring that companies are not just surviving but thriving in the corporate landscape of tomorrow.

There was an interesting question on Quora: “How do companies remain innovative?” Maybe my answer sparks some more ideas and some more answers or even different questions.

Here is my response – rather than a real answer:

So far, there is no company known for being repeatedly innovative. Even the most innovative startups become a victim of what made them successful in the first place – a disruptive innovator. I’m not talking about all the old companies like ATT, Intel, Cisco, Ford, Boing. I’m talking about even today’s disrupter like Facebook, Google, Uber, AirBnB… and so forth. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, companies have been innovative at birth and that’s it. There are probably less than 10 companies ever built that may be an exception. The question should be: What can be done that companies create an innovation continuum? That is actually the work we do. Four years ago we went on a quest to find out how innovative ideas are created in the first place. Looking at the four innovative businesses we founded did not help. Looking talking to peers did not help. Wondering how we could help even our own businesses to become innovative “again” did not help. The defining answer came from neuroscience. From people who research the defects of our brain, how we actually think, and the discovery that thoughts and ideas are no different in structure. The outcome: innovation is a whole series of counterintuitive processes. Once we understand how our brain composes thoughts or ideas, it changes the whole and very wrong perception of how to innovate. Ideation is no serendipity any longer, brainstorming is a superficial feel well meeting, post-its and whiteboards are nice but don’t do it, random experimentation is a huge waste of time and money, pivoting is a big mistake, having a team of the best experts will never lead to innovation….. 

Why is this even important? Isn’t disruption and being disrupted just a live cycle in the life of a business? Shouldn’t it be a natural cycle that we don’t interrupt?

I don’t think so

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have rapidly evolved as humans; as a society, we made huge mistakes, we worked hard to fix them, and still do.  I think it is about time to not only improve and fix products by amazing innovation, but we also need to make “structural innovation” in our respective organizations. For instance: the discussion about silos is more than 50 years old. Silos came to existence when we were all asked to increase our focus, which increases our productivity and makes us more experiences, and gives us deeper insights. Yes, the price we pay is a more natural flow of information, knowledge, and collaboration. The silo exhausts all that into the ether. But breaking down the silos would potentially lose those advantages, and we don’t know of any alternative.

Analogous thinking:  If we keep the analogy to a silo, how about turning it by 90°. The silo becomes a pipe. A pip still gives us a great focus – AND – it gives us flow. Connecting all the pipes on one end, information and experience can flow without distracting and defocusing the stream itself. To do that, it takes organizational ingenuity. And that we never unleashed. Change is bad because there is no winning. If you introduce a successful change, you would be considered lucky – if not, you get fired. Our resistance to change can be found in the culture of where we work, where we have been educated, and where we have been raised. So it’s our parents, teachers, and bosses’ fault – right? YES, RIGHT. If you teach your children the same values, ask your teammates for the same behavior and instruct others the same model to follow, which one of them is probably what you do, it becomes the fault of all of us.

Instead of pointing fingers, let’s agree that we simply learned from our past experiences. Innovation is no serendipity but a composition of past experiences. Now we can all work on a structural redesign of the businesses we work in. When PanAm, Compaq, Nixdorf, and so forth were shut down or acquired, thousands have been left unemployed. And instead of trying to stop innovation, we may be better off becoming innovators far beyond the product we design, produce, market, sell, or service. We may want to use our natural, born creativity, even though it may have been crippled over the years, to get crazy about meaningful ways to innovate our organizational structures.


What would you change in your organization to get a better flow and less friction, more fun, and less pain?



You know, that on average 10% of startups win – Don’t focus on those who did not make it. UNDERSTAND WHAT THE F**K DID THE GOOD STARTUPS HAVE TO WIN?
Our most recent Accelerator – Flight 8 – is a great example (picture). “The winner takes it all” – even the funding.

The epic list of failing

The list of questions about what went wrong feels endless. Tens of thousands of little reasons why they fail.  And 90% of young entrepreneurs focus on exactly that – they FEAR to fail. Interestingly enough those who win don’t fear anything – not even to fail.

The short list of winning

Instead of fearing to fail, become determined to win. And it takes only 5 key aspects:

  1. Founders Team Composition
    The difference between success and failure, we found are these 10 traits or talents: fearless, creative, determined, curious, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are the top 10 traits for entrepreneurs.
    If you don’t have some of those traits, no problem at all – only you may not be the perfect choice for a founder. And if you are, you most likely won’t make it alone. At least in the past 50 years no solopreneur made it to a top company. So don’t go forward alone. Having co-founders means sharing – sharing equity sharing the pain sharing the win in the end. Another of the most read blog posts explains it pretty well. The best founders are co-founders.
  2. Problem Solving Nature
    Founding a company just to be your own boss or because it looks like it can make you rich – will be failing you with 100%. But seeing an opportunity to fix one of the countless problems and making the designated audience more successful and/or more happy it is hard to fail. There are hundreds of problems and if they still exist nobody else found a great solution – maybe you will.
  3. Observer & Listener
    The simple skills – or not so simple for many people – is being a great observer and listener. Watch people what they do and how they do it. You may get an idea to solve it. Listen to people what they say, how they say it and what their emotions are. Just listening may give you great ideas, verify it with others and build the idea up. The reason why we have so many unsolved problems is because nobody had the energy to start a company solving it. Here are over 100 unsolved problems.
  4. Execution
    Once you really know what problem you want to solve and made enough effort to verify your idea with future customers and don’t worry about your idea get stolen you will need to execute. Hence the name Chief EXECUTIVE officer. That means hiring the best of the best people and jointly sticking to what you want to achieve. Work with the most advanced customers first – don’t try the easy ones. Look for business partners, suppliers you can learn from and as you perform with the least possible budgets you will grow fast. You see the full list on another post: A day of a startup CEO. Only if you love this job more than anything else – you are in the right spot. And of not, there are lots of other positions to fill.
  5. Making a difference not getting rich
    Sheer jealousness and greed made most people look down on the wealthy business owners. Only a few, close enough to them, will realize that most of them never cared about making money. What drives them is making a vision becoming a reality and making a difference. Whether people believe or not doesn’t matter to them they are not looking for attention but progress. And this closes the loop to success. It takes a dream team, eager to solve problems, carefully observing markets and executing that vision no matter what, tio build a phenomenal company. And there are many ways to get funding. Trying to get rich at the same time is a huge distraction and almost always leads to failure. Of course they get rich after a few yours successfully growing their business, very rich. But focusing on that is a killer.

This list is “inclusive” a single missing item on that list seem to cause death of a startup. This list follows the weak link principal. If one is weak – all is weak.

You wonder about financing, missing investors, VCs, and so forth? Here it comes again: blinded by money. You believe you need to hire people to build a perfect solution or a business person to run operations? Again: Blinded by money – look for a co-founder instead. You need marketing and therefor money? You can already see it where it goes. The best entrepreneurs in the world “built something with nothing” – that makes the biggest difference in one sentence.


Covid-19 is only one crisis of many in our near past – and you will learn to live with crises in the future. Moreover, you should make your startup crisis resistant.

With the track record below you can almost be sure there will be yet another problem lurking around the corner and you need to be ready to take it. My personal recommendation: “DO NOT SPEND A HUGE AMOUNT OF EFFORT IN PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS FOR A FUTURE CRISIS”  but be aware that it can happen every day again and it can be completely different than anything we have seen so far.

  • Oil crisis early 1980’s
    It was the first big rush into the startup world. Comdex started in 1979 and the tech startups flourished. But for most other firms it was a year of financial trouble. The oil crisis had it’s peak. We were looking for funding for Computer 2000 – not much luck initially.
  • Bubble burst 2000
    The stock exchanges collapsed under the Internet Bubble burst. Extreme speculation caused a huge financial crisis. Several investors even committed suicide. Thereafter there was no funding for any startup whatsoever. We were 4 weeks away from our IPO, spent all the money on it, and then boom. How to survive? Today the company doomed to die does nearly a billion in revenue.
  • September 11, 2001
    The Internet Bubble seemed to be fading out, and the next big crisis followed right on their heels. And again no funding, no support, nothing that could keep a startup alive unless they found their own way. It was the day of our very first investor pitch at a new startup BueRoads. Obviously it did not happen. Five years later we were the market leader in our space.
  • US economy meltdown in 2008
    The prime rate disaster killed the entire US economy. Startups – again – had nowhere to go. And again cash conservation was the call of that time. Only the best survived. We were just launching the Social Media Academy. Five years later we had the highest reputation in the Social Media education space.
  • Refugee crisis in 2015
    Millions of refugees from the middle east and north Africa had to leave everything back and migrated to other countries. Those who tried to start a business in the North African belt had to start all over – in foreign countries with no connections. We started a refugee accelerator to help migrating entrepreneurs to start a business in Germany – where nearly a million refugees entered. Five years later, 12 companies survived and created over 100 jobs.
  • Corona in 2020
    And again, yet a different type of crisis but the same effects: Startups run out of money and either find a way to survive or go out of business. And again the best will survive and the weak ones will die.
  • TBD 20XX
    With that history, we, entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurs to come will need to deal with it. All entrepreneurs have to consider an incident that may cause their crash and go through it. Disaster Recovery is not only an IT term or for economies but for every business no matter how small or large.

The Big Advantage

Today we have a huge advantage over previous times: Healthy businesses can switch to a digital continuation plan within days. Home offices, fully connected employees can access even the mainframes through digital connections to the corporate main frames or local networks, video conferences can connect us with virtually anybody, we don’t need fax or paper, we don’t need to travel, and with a two- or three-week time lack we “could” go back to full production. The biggest issue is still coordinating an entire country to do the right things at the right time. And education is key. This current crisis has demonstrated to perfection where our weaknesses and opportunities are. As posted before: We will never get back to what was in the past. Business already did and will continue to massively shift towards a digital life far beyond what we have today.

Startups here and now

You have been at school for any of the previous crisis or not even alive back then. But there is quite a learning. The questions basically are:
What did startups do in the economic crisis 2001?
– With innovative ideas, maximum cash conservation, alternative funding and more.

How did refugees build a business with nothing?

– With an unbendable willpower to survive and the dream to get their families into safety and build a new existence.

How to structure a business during a crisis?

– Forgetting growth and every mundane drive forward but move into survival mode and never give up on the big and bold vision of a different future that made the company start in the first place.

How to turn a business to profitability in 30 days?

– By taking any available creativity to get cost down to zero and maximize the effort to get revenue.

What resources are still available in bad times?

– Every positive thinking human is more open to help than ever before – just ask!

What funding options, other than investors exist?

– There are at least 10 alternative ways to get funding from friends, partners, crowdfunding, banks, grants, service sales, pre-production sales, and more.

The best startups have always been those who survived a crisis.

If you are fully “digital & social”, social in the sense of social media, you have a huge advantage right now. But if the next crisis is a cyber-war, energy attack that leaves us with no power and no Internet? What would we do? There will be a startup with cool solutions as well :)

Please join us on our online call for entrepreneurs: “Surviving a crisis

Also please share your own tips, experiences, and suggestions.

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


The most successful startups in the world start with an amazing business idea. Even though the initial value of even the grandest idea is zero, it is the very moment that sets everything in motion and possibly changes the world – again.

I’m asked weekly the same questions in may different ways of course: “I want to start my own business, what would be a good business idea.” Years ago I had a rather gruffy answer: “Why do you want to start a business if you don’t know what to do – just because its trendy?” Over time I learned that there is a global urge for doing something more meaningful, more creative, more important and become the center of that meaning yourselves. And if that is the purpose – than people asking that question deserve a great answer.  Yet the question is essentially the same:

What can I do to be more meaningful in live. 

Interestingly enough, that question leads to a very different answer. It isn’t to look for a business that is in demand right now, or a business based on the persons education or expertise, or a business that may provide best and fastest return of investment. It isn’t a business category or type answer at all.

The better answer is to look where people have problems and finding solutions. Looking for people that are at risk and find ways to make their job less risky. Or people that do jobs they are not built for and helping find ways to match them. And the whole slew of problems from purified water, to better hygiene, to reducing energy consumption, energy storage, and the approximately millions of other ideas.

So you cannot start a new business with no business idea, it would not be a business. What you can do however is trying to solve a real problem, no matter how big and complex it may be.

AirBnB solved the problem that millions of traveler had, staying in a cozy with a full size refrigerator, a living room to meet with friend, where you can have breakfast whenever you like and a room to work that is more than is bigger than closet without booking a suite.

Uber solved the problem people had when using a taxi that you were never sure that it comes in time and it takes you the best way to your destination.

Space-X solved the problem that government driven space agencies have to build efficient rockets for commercial or private use.

Systec solved the problem of stranded shopping carts at large shopping centers by simply connecting all cars with a chain and releasing the cart by putting in a dollar or Euro or whatever currency and getting it back once the cart is returned.

Whether its a simply chain lock or a reusable space ship – and everything in between, solving real problems in a real simple way creates super successful businesses.

On aggregate there are millions of hours wasted every month my millions of people looking for an idea somebody else already had to copy. Instead of looking for problems nobody had solved yet. People my think they are not capable to solve problems, too weak to start something new, too inexperienced to come up with a radical shift, too “little” to do something valuable, have too less money to do something big. All of those fears are usually coming to mind when you are educated to be of no value, too stupid, to “little” too poore…. Than think about the other way like we put the question upside down: Are you too “little” to be helpful? And if that is hopefully a NO – than go solve whatever problem you identify to solve. Find co-founders to complement your skillset and collaborate for a purpose – nut for just running a business.

And if you are still not sure, study the most influential inventors of the past 10 years,  past 50 years or past 200 years. You will notice that most of them started with nothing, a lot of respect for the problem they are trying to solve and a ton of energy to never give up.

You may want to join our upcoming Idea Seeker webinar.
It’s on May 4th and part of the Knowledge Transfer series for young entrepreneurs.

All it takes: nothing but respect and energy :)

The super boys and girls never win – the humble, respectful and never quitting, always will. Go for it!


As part of the WIForum Initiative “Innovate Fighting Pandemics” we discussed ourselves what would we do if we ran a production company with thousands of employees and are forced to shut down. What would we do if we have no tools and no resources? We started to calculate:

The incubation time is approximately 2, sometimes 3 weeks. We are home for three weeks and “experience” for ourselves, that we feel safe and had zero contact to anybody. We do not show any symptoms and are most likely not infected. So we and friends of ours with the same pattern: 3 weeks in quarantine and no symptoms could meet. If we had a tester we could do a quick test and have a party – totally safe.

How about elevating that thought to a production company.

Employees who have bin in quarantine for three weeks with no symptoms could go back to work, assuming they don’t use public transportation, don’t stop anywhere and commute  in “tunnel mode”, very much like their VPN to get safely into the network of their office.

A first group of let’s say 1/3 of the employees could be carefully selected in a way that production could be fired up.
They start 3 weeks after breakout assuming they were in quarantine and have no symptoms.
Ideally each employee gets tested as they re-enter the factory/offices
Two weeks later they pause again and group B starts. The first SHIFT.

Like starts after after Group A pauses and another group, one third of the company continues for two week. The company has at least now a 1/3 production power under in continuation mode. Also Group B pauses after 2 weeks – to make sure that all employees stay disciplined and be safe. The second big shift

The last group and the third 1/3 of the company takes over the shift of Group B. By now Group C was the first three weeks plus another  4 weeks in Quarantine. So we can assume they are really ok. Therefor Group A joines back the team and now 2/3 of the company are back in production mode. They work also for 2 weeks. Another Megashift.

Nine weeks later everybody is back in business. Depending on the discipline of the society and the law enforcement of the government, the whole nation may still be extremely cautious, but have their business life back and with it a larger part back in a regular situation, economy is back and supplies are relatively back depending on foreign material.
The Megashift MOdel is nothing more than huge – long single shifts. Instead of hours it’s abut weeks.

As countries have rules and regulations how to enforce the quarantine – this model needs to be synched up with the government of course.

Stay safe – everybody
Our thoughts are with the thousands of people who passed away and with their relatives.

Innovate Fighting Pandemics

If you have any ideas, know tools, best practices or want to develop something, join us

Axel Schultze



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.


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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.