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

Emerging country entrepreneurs have the best potential for innovation

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

Innovation is at the heart of the Word Innovations Forum

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

Where do those magical innovative ideas come from?

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

Searching for 007 Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

Entrepreneurial Spirit Development

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

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

Global Mentorship & Support Network

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

 

The world needs more 007s

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


How Many More Hidden Gems are there?


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

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

Test Your Entrepreneurial DNA

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

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

Join the Innopreneurs Academy

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

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

 

 

June 23-25, the second World Innovations Forum Conference, will be held online. Broadcasted from our innovation studios in Lucerne Switzerland, attendees will meet innovative minds from fast-emerging countries discussing needs and dreams, plans and programs to bring the “New World” on eye-level with the “Old World.” Ingenuity, curiosity, determination, networking power, unbreakable will-power, and top education, all of the necessities of top-level entrepreneurs are seen in the fearless and risk-taking entrepreneurs in South East Asia and Africa. Many of those countries are on the verge of profound change. Let’s be straight forward; self-confidence and eagerness unfolds ingenuity.

EMERGING DETERMINATION

The same determination drives the WIForum Foundation members such as country ambassadors, champions, partners, volunteers from Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as industry partners from developed nations. The goal is to elevate the economic level of those nations to become autonomous and able to compete in global markets – but more importantly, contribute to human progress. The fact of life: 1 billion people can only feed the other 6 billion people if that is their sole focus. But, 7 billion people together are able to solve most of the biggest problems we see today in the near future and can truly be considered equal. Togetherness empowers us to get to sustainable innovation in our industry, energy needs, care and social development while building out our comfortable lives – without sacrificing our planet. 

WORLDS LARGEST INNOVATION POTENTIAL

The two largest continents by size, Asia and Africa, and also by population, with 6 of the 7.7 billion people, represent the most substantial innovation potential on earth. The WIForum Digital 2020 Conference offers an insight into what to expect from the most significant parts of our planet and where it may take us. You will get a glimpse into the world of top-notch startups from Africa and Asia and how they shape to win the world. By the end of this decade we will see a boost of innovation of seismic proportion.

SPEAKERS

If you are looking for the globally well known speakers – we will need to disappoint you. The innovative minds from tomorrow are not the heroes from yesterday. We also don’t want to list the same problems that one always hears and the same successes that we already know. We decided to give you insights from what is actually happening today and where it must lead to tomorrow. Join us on the ground and draw your own trajectory for the real tomorrow.

Startups from Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam are still invited to apply to present 

wiforum.org/wifdigital-entrepreneurs/ 

 

This virus clearly hit humanity pretty hard in many ways. First and foremost the losses of lives. And it comes hand in hand with a very saddened human behavior: “oh the ones that died were already so old and already ill…” did we give up on the value of life? The value of currently 25,000 lives? Over 500,000 are infected. And obviously our general life is fundamentally narrowed down to the apartment we live in. If we have an apartment. 75% of people have not. The people in large parts of Africa, Asia and quite some parts in Latin America have not. They live on a daily income of $5 or less. They have to go out and work whatever is available. We learned from our friends in Uganda, Kenya and other nations: Most of their people have two options: starving to death or getting the virus that they most likely survive – the decision is simple. That is the decision about 1 billion people have to make right now. So corona is no joke, no hype and no conspiracy.

However, we also will learn more from Corona, than most think today:

1) The importance of the English Language

Many of us read the news and daily updates from around the world every morning. We know already what worked and what didn’t from China, from South Korea, from Singapore and many other Asian countries. But this is only if you speak English or are digital savvy enough to automatically translate everything into your language. In recent discussions we learned that far more than half of the governments in the world do not speak english. They are dependent of what others tell them what is happening. Also those who are looking for test equipment, treatment, best practices, what type of hygiene measures they may consider long before the rest of the word slowly woke up. The English language no longer is the universal language for doing business around the globe, it is the number one language of communication also in any kind of crisis. Speaking one common language – at least as a second language – is paramount for our survival, not only in business but also in our general life. And it will also closing the gap between rich and poor, My proposal for the United Nation: Making “English as a common language on earth” the SDG #18.

2) Digital Empowerment

In only 10 weeks the world has turned to digital faster than all the efforts of even the most powerful governments on earth in the last 10 years. Companies with a home office concept could almost seamlessly transition from their office buildings to home offices. But going digital is not only an emergency action to stay in business: In the past few weeks we had far more client interactions online than ever before. Trying to setup a meeting, finally finding a convenient day and time, traveling an hour to do a meeting for another hour is over.  TODAY: “Do you have a moment?” – “Sure – give me 5 minute” – “How can I help” – We have this and that issue … Ok ….”  15 minute later, everything was done. And not next week – but immediately. We accelerated work by 2.5 hours and reduced the “problem to solution” time by maybe a week. In our particular case run so called demo days after each startup acceleration program. We rent a venue invite investors and let our entrepreneurs present in front of approximately 15 to 25 investors sometimes a little more. This year we just invited 800 investors from around the world and have already more registrations than ever before. This year, the Demo Day is digital and everybody can join it on April 8, from wherever they are. A huge advantage. Of course this is no real substitute for face to face meetings but it is a powerful option that we will consider in the future. And we also have our global 3 day WIForum Digital 2020 Conference this year in June. 3 days and we expect 2,000 people from over 40 countries. Of course it is fully digital. In countries where Corona may have been enough contained we will do – like last time – public viewings in the respective cities, have about 40 – 50 speakers, including governments, universities and many top talented innovative businesses. All digital, and on top of all, no Co² emission, no travel no energy expenditure, maximum cost reduction and more. Even after corona is contained our work life will never be like it was. We learned to become more independent and far more efficient if we put our old “protocols” aside and spend time for meetings when and wherever, get problems solved immediately and build relations that go far deeper than ever before. However what is an advantage for some will become an even bigger disadvantage for the slow and far less agile businesses.

3) Social Distancing

One of the new key words. People are isolated at home and lack of social interactions. Its a very uncomfortable situation to be alone – not only in times of an pandemic. Yet. also here we quickly learned to hang out with friends online. And not just adults but also kids – at least those who have been online before. Multi Player Games and all the other digital entertainment out there comes extremely hande when a whole family stays home. BUT not only to shut of the kids – but to to give them an opportunity to learn about social connections in the digital world. I have been working in the social media world since its inception in 2003. Today, 17 years later, I have an equal amount of friends that I never met face to face in my entire life. From some I know far more what is going on in their lives than from some of my family members. My old friend Des Walsh, who I never met in person but have been connected for 10 years now, is older than 99% of my oldest local friends who never touched Facebook. Social Distancing is a problem that we can overcome. And those who have the experience for years, learned about digital body language, read the mind of somebody not by seeing their facial expressions but writing style would certainly not suffer social distancing at all. Whether in business or in our private lives, we learned already so much about others from the daily interactions in the online world that we get a completely different perspective of the media.

4) Accelerating the innovative mind

Another aspect of life is our ability to innovate. In times of a crisis innovation pops right and left. Companies that seem to unable to innovate get all of a sudden very creative. Instead of building car parts they build facial masks to protect people because they know how to build filters. Others get great ideas to build simple but globally accessible apps showing latest discoveries about the virus and best practices to protect one another. We created an initiative “Innovate Fighting Pandemics” to inspire innovative mind, from all trades to share their ideas so that others can find solutions to problems they may have. What we all learned is that innovation is not a reserved domain for highly educated scientists but we all are innovative, as long as we give our mind the free space to think. And in times like now it is simply accelerating for survival – why not always give our mind the freedom to go crazy.

5) Business & Production Processes

Another learning we already can envision is to make our business processes and production structures far more flexible in thinking and in operation. Right now, today Mar 27, many companies ca no longer produce because people are at home for their own safety and cannot produce an automobile from their home office. But why is it that brutal? Because we think in maximum “employee utilisation”. The production runs are so hyper optimized that there is not even a “Plan B”. Instead of stopping the motion to zero, we can get a bit smarter. We can already today let 50% of the employees come back who have for sure no symptoms. Ask them to avoid mass transportation and go with individual transportation to the manufacturing plant. Likely hood that they catch a virus is low and cross contamination with those who have been healthy at home for two weeks extremely low. Two weeks later we run the second “mega-shift” and ask the other group to go back to work. Four weeks later we most likely are back to full production.Obviously it takes some major co-ordination, super machine and workplace cleaning in between shift but also during the shifts, orchestrating the right people for a half production load and so forth but that Plan B is probably with millions of dollars per day worth of business loss. Post Corona we will never go back to static operations but will want to consider more flexibility, driving more agility and giving the organization a better competitiveness.

6) Small Business Stagnation

Small businesses, shops, retailer, reseller, and so forth have been struggling to stay alive, not able competing against the big e-commerce giants. For many it will be a sad ending as they just could not decide to think about smart alternatives they can offer to their customers. The retail market has changed, consumer behavior and desires advanced, but their payer did not. At the same time many, very fortunately, finally understood what customers want and shifted towards online offerings, home delivery, better logistics, better return policies so that ended up become far more competitive and customers find better services. Some countries blocked any innovation that put their small retailers in jeopardy. In times like right now is fires back badly. They have to spend more money to support the failing businesses and have missed the development they couldn’t stop anyway. E-commerce, fast home delivery, return policies and processes have improved more and faster  in the past 10 weeks than in the last five years. Countries with weird import regulations, difficult taxation and more see their self sufficiency rate go much faster down than in other countries. Again – life post corona will never go back to what it was before.

There are probably countless more examples about changes that will not go back to what it was. And we all, would love to hear from you. Share your experiences here in the comment section for others to learn from!

 

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.

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

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

Can’t hear about climate change any more?
Here is maybe a way to end it.

An amazing example how innovation and disruption is not only about technology. It may not look like an innovation, because we simply never understood desertification (land turning to desert) in the first place. Allan Savory shows disruptive ways out of climate change. The innovation in this case is first understanding the problem and then consciously developing a solution. In this case, we can rightfully call it a disruption, because a) it is counterintuitive to what we think maybe right, but more so b) it changes everything what every farmer is doing today.

When you read the comments you will notice people who did what he proposed even before he spoke about and realized the same results. I only hope that climate change organizations are brave enough to take this into consideration as a possible solution, despite they may eradicating their organization with this disruptive model.

Anybody out there has a farm, know somebody with a farm has seen similar results?

 

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.