This is Jennifer Marsh writing from home in Boston. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the annual Harvard India Conference, hosted by the Harvard Kennedy Center and Harvard Business School, because Atul had been asked to be one of the speakers at the event. He was willing to bring me along for the experience, in a marketing and PR capacity, to take pictures and network with other attendees who might be interested in Fair Observer, and seek out of some potential new fans or supporters. I was attending this conference with very little knowledge of what it takes to launch a company or social entrepreneurial venture in India, or what it would take to be a successful media or cinema mogul, and virtually no knowledge specific to Indian agribusiness or health care—all of which were panels of discussion led by fantastic leaders in their fields, and that I was able see for myself before attending Atul’s panel at about 3 P.M. Sunday afternoon.
Due to his role in the creation of Fair Observer, Atul was asked to speak at the conference about his experience with new and digital media on a panel entitled “Indian Media: Global, Representative, Autonomous?” What I found interesting about Atul’s participation was that Fair Observer isn’t really an Indian website, although it of course has great writers and contributors who focus on India whether it is the Indian economy, culture or politics. Fair Observer is a global enterprise, with contributors from all over the world, focusing on topics of global import. The other speakers on the panel with Atul were Yashwant Deshmukh, the CEO of YRD Networks a communications consultancy based out of India, and Ravi Prakash, who is CEO of TV9 one of the leading TV networks in India, both of whom are old friends of Atul’s from India. I had already been extremely inspired by several speakers throughout the day, particularly by those on the panel entitled “Harnessing India’s Demographic Dividend: Role of social development actors in skilling India’s marginalized youth” due to their successful ventures in launching skill development programs, and other social entrepreneurial ventures in India, like Ponnam Ahluwalia, the founder and president of Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability (YES); and so, by the time 3 P.M. rolled around, and we were nearing the end of an long, albeit very educational day… I have to admit that I was almost pleasantly surprised to find that, in-between snapping pictures for the Fair Observer blog, I was now at one of the liveliest discussions I had seen all afternoon.
Atul in a bright orange kurta and the two well-suited media moguls sitting beside him, were not afraid to interject and interact with audience before the pre-allotted time for “questions and answers” at the end—and one moment in particular stood out to me. While the other panels spoke when asked to speak on a specific topic by the moderator, Atul did something I didn’t see on any other panel. Early on, he asked for a show of hands, “Who gets most of their news about Africa from the Economist?” and about 10-12 hands go up. He asks next, “The Wall Street Journal?” and a few more hands go up. After going through various other standard American publications, all receiving a sputtering of raised hands, and one participant reminded Atul to have included the Guardian as an option—Atul finally asks the audience members to raise their hands if any of them actually got their news on Africa from an African publication? –Or news on China from a Chinese publication?
Among the extremely well educated audience, not one person raised their hand to answer, “yes,” to this question. I have been passionate about working at Fair Observer since I first got the opportunity, particularly in today’s limited and self-serving media climate, but it was actually in this moment that I realized that Fair Observer is not only a great source of news analysis, it’s a necessary one. Fair Observer fills a vacuum in media space right now—we live in an ever-increasingly globalized world, yet virtually all of our news is filtered through a one-dimensional cultural perspective—our own. To learn about China, shouldn’t we get our news analysis from the Chinese, at least in part?
During the lunch period I got into a discussion with a man who works at a successful staffing agency in Boston. He made the point that in America, business is simply done better. He said that India, despite its tremendous growth, and a population whose number will overtake the Chinese in a matter of decades, still tends to fall behind because the businessmen continue to copy or recreate business models that have been proven to succeed somewhere else, typically America. In Europe he said they don’t work as hard. His point overall was that there was greater ingenuity in America, and just a higher intellectual atmosphere and a desire to truly work and achieve success. While I thought he made some interesting points, I immediately took issue with the notion that Americans are the leaders in business intelligence, and the world’s leading intellectuals. I told him my opinion, that in this country one of our major failings was taking such a belief too much to heart—in America, more so than in Europe, we close our selves off from the news and events taking place around the rest of the world, as if they don’t affect us. The local news I get at home is about whether teenagers in the school district have found a new way to sneak cigarettes into their lockers; or how spring has sprung on the North Shore. Yes, I realize this is only local news, but such programming is typically the only news that enters the homes of countless Americans. When I lived in France I remembered the local news station in Montpellier would discuss local developments, the local weather report, etc., but additionally it would also focus on topics of global import. We dumb ourselves down in this country—and I don’t think we will continue to produce the next generation of leading businessmen if the dumbing down continues any longer, or without new media initiatives like Fair Observer. So I handed him Atul’s card. And all this being said, there were several people that sought Atul out of their own accord, after the panel had concluded. I hope that the number of people who recognize the importance of global media perspectives continues to grow in my fascinating country, the US of A.
It's done! Part 3 of our photo story is finally online!
This part introduces some of our team members of the Silicon Valley team, takes you to some of our meetings, e.g. with Venture Stars, and shows how we work until the golden hour. Check out our blog next week to see Atul's cooking skills in action!
Your Fair Observer Team
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This is Annika Neujahr writing from the Silicon Valley. I am reporting about home base now that Atul has relocated his adventures to the east coast for a while. The crowd has gotten pretty thin around here in our apartment. In the first two days after I arrived in Sunnyvale eight people were living here. Now we are only three. Still, the lives of the remaining few need to be told as wellJ
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
I sat on the roof top of the Plug and Play Center, feeling I would miss out on some tan and Vitamin D if I sat in the windowless office all day. I got sunburn, which didn’t make me all that unhappy, even though I think I caught a slight fever along with it. But getting sunburn is a bit of a joyous thing at the moment, since it means Sunnyvale is finally getting some sun too. In the last few weeks my friends and family in Munich had about 10° Celsius more than us in California.
Monday, March 19, 2012
My main tasks at the moment are constructing 360° analyses, updating our editorial calendar and writing about 1000 emails a day. We will soon have some new analyses about climate change, NATO-Russia relations and the Russian elections, for example.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
We came back to our apartment at 5 o’ clock in the morning - thanks to Nina, a postgraduate at The German Silicon Valley Accelerator, who has been driving us around a lot lately. We slept for some hours and then I spent the rest of Sunday writing an article out the MIT Global Startup Workshop. Fabian, one of our founders, is going to attend this workshop in Istanbul on March 28-30. It is a great initiative by MIT students who pass on their expertise in entrepreneurship to a different part of the world each year. They bring together many people from different countries and backgrounds. This is a great opportunity to hear the point of view of someone who comes from a different culture and may have very different skills and insights.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Christian Franz, the one remaining Fair Observer left in Sunnyvale besides me, had the idea of going to San Francisco for the day to do some shopping. This seems to be the most important thing for people leaving the US – shopping till the lights go out one last time. We were not very successful though, since we stayed at the apartment most of the day preparing the newsletter so everyone can find out about our latest achievements and our best articles. In the afternoon we did managed to leave our dear companions, the laptops, behind and venture out to the CalTrain Station in Sunnyvale. When we arrived at the station we noticed our “Black Beauty” had a flat tire. My heart has grown fond of that car, but I do feel like every time we take it for a short ride something else falls off or a new warning light starts blinking. So understandably, we don’t trust it to make it all the way to Lake Tahoe or Las Vegas.
Riding on the CalTrain for the first time was quite an experience. We sat on the top level, like on the buses in London. In London I always felt like in a scene of one of the Harry Potter movies, where the supernatural “Knight Bus” deforms itself and squeezes in between two scarily huge and fast trucks coming the other way. Sitting on the top deck of those buses in London I always marveled at how they managed to fit in the smallest spaces without knocking someone in the tightly packed crowd in the also-too-small sidewalks in the head with its wing mirrors. Despite the odds, Christian and I got to San Francisco safely, talking about income inequality during the entire train ride. Christian was assessing the pros and cons of unconditional basic income, while I believe distributing salaries over the different sectors and kinds of jobs just a little more fair would make many people’s lives a lot easier while taking just a little from those that have a lot.
As I mentioned, the shopping part of our trip was not as successful as we hoped. The store we ended up in was the H&M, the one store that probably has more assortments in Germany than in the US. We were happy with our acquisitions nonetheless, though Christian is still questioning the beauty of his newly bought khaki-brown trousers, especially when matched with his old khaki-brown shoes.
Cody, a friend of Atul’s he met at MIT, invited us to come to his house in the hills of San Francisco for some barbecue in the evening. We met his roommate Ted and several of his friends, most of which seemed to be from New York. They told us how they loved New York, but that they much preferred barbecuing and jumping into the hot tub out on the verandah in the hills.
Friday, March 16, 2012
The week has gone by far too quickly. One after the other is leaving us in rainy Sunnyvale. This morning at 5 am Christian Becker, also fondly called Dr. Dr. DJ Becker by us left for Germany. Felix from the German Silicon Valley Accelerator, Christian Franz and I are the only ones left in our apartment and our office in Sunnyvale right now, but they will soon be leaving as well. I am not so much looking forward to the week I will be spending alone after Christian Franz and Felix leave and before Fabian and Atul come back. I had gotten used to having so many people around.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Yesterday evening Atul Singh, our Editor-in-chief, left Sunnyvale for the East Coast in order to attend some conferences. Fortunately did not leave us for good, but he is coming back in three weeks. Yesterday evening was very productive. I had a long session with Atul and we found several (that sounds optimistic) articles we would love to feature on our website. Since our aim is to have no more single articles without a context article, my job is to aggregate several perspectives on the issues discussed and find people to write a context article for them. This is a longsome task, since most of the people that write for us have a day job and writing for the Fair Observer is something they do on the side.
This is Atul sitting in the Kennedy School with a religion major from Ohio who went to a Catholic school but is spiritual rather than religious. We are attending the faith debate that is discussing the role of religion in politics. Already I am a bit disappointed. Coming from the feisty Oxford Union tradition of debating, the Harvard gig is a damp squib. Folks do not lay down their arguments and have a go at each other. They should call this a conversation or a discussion. It is a top quality fireside chat, often thoughtful and insightful, but certainly not a debate.
The last few days have been hectic when it comes to meeting people. I have met a large spectrum of interesting folks who have expressed support for us. Now it is time to follow-up and to hit the laptop for the night and reach out to the people I have met.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
I began the day with a couple of meetings and then ran to a friend’s office to sign some documents and send them as PDF to Christian Franz. Christian is our de facto Chief-of-Staff who is incredibly bright, impressively organized and extraordinarily engaging. He is intelligent and handsome, bright and modest, and has that uncanny ability to get things done while appearing extremely relaxed. Now that the girls around the world who are reading this blog are excited about this German Prince, I should move on to the rest of the day.
Yet again, I caught the bus to Boston literally at the last minute and was the last person to board. I actually did not even have a ticket but they let me get on for free as the bus was leaving and there was one extra seat. They probably will not be reading this but I have to say that I am incredibly grateful to them. We got into Boston a bit late and I ran to the “T”, Boston’s public transport system to catch the red line to Harvard Square. I sprinted from the T to Kennedy School and met Nick Burns who was extremely gracious wit h his time.
Then I met a few other people and ended up attending the so-called debate. A long night awaits, my back pains and my eyes hurt but I have to keep going on.
Monday, 19 March 2012
The day ran away in a blur of meetings, some of which were useful while others were not so much. The best meeting of the day was with Policy Mic. Started by a Harvard and Stanford graduate, this new media company is trying to get the millennial generation fired about what you would call policy in the US and politics in the rest of the world. I was very impressed by the team. They have rented out a house in the Bronx and are hard at work trying to bring their vision to reality. There is a lot we can learn from them and we might even cooperate together if the stars align the right way. We wish them luck and great future success.
Sunday, 18 March 2012
I woke up and hit work with a vengeance. By the end of the day, I had worked through an enormous amount of correspondence. It was a day of follow-up and I sent a hell of a lot of emails. The unglamorous part of being an entrepreneur is plowing through hundreds of emails day after day, night after night. I wrote to people I had met, people who had written to me and tided up notes in notebook that as anyone who knows me will tell you is a stream of consciousness with a life of its own. I was in what you would call “the zone” through the day and got a fair bit done. Here is hoping for more such days so that I can get stuff done. As Fabian says, “well done is better than well said.”
Since we have received great feedback on the first episode of our Fair Observer photo story we decided to continue with telling our story both in written blog entries and in photos.
The second part covers our first pitch in Silicon Valley at the launch event of the German Silicon Valley Accelerator. Check out our blog next week to meet the other Fair Observer team members!
Enjoy the story!
Your Fair Observer Team
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This is Atul, sitting in Sam Ollunga’s apartment typing on my laptop while four African friends sleep after a day of merriment on St. Patrick’s Day. Having travelled far and wide, and spent time in Ireland, it is surprising to see the fervor with which New Yorkers celebrate this day. It seems that the whole city turns green with clover and pretends to be Irish.
Saturday, 17th March 2012
As mentioned earlier, New York was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a fervor that I had not anticipated. I began the day meeting Sehreen Noor Ali and her Pakistani husband, to share my vision of Fair Observer and they promised to help. Both of them are engaging people and had shared interesting insights about education and culture in Pakistan, Africa and the US. After meeting them, I met Esther Pang, a Fulbright fellow from Panama, who is truly impressive. She wants to get involved in the Fair Observer project and we agreed to talk further to see what role she could potentially have.
I walked back to my Kenyan friend’s place and ran into a bunch of South Africans who were all decked out in green and being Irish for the day. It brought to my mind the fundamental issue of identity in the US. In other parts of the world, national and regional identities run deep. I cannot imagine my English friends dressed in green walking around London on St. Patrick’s Day. Here, folks from all races and backgrounds walk around celebrating being Irish. One could take the cynical view and say that there is no historical context to the celebration and all it offers is a chance to get drunk. People are going out on the streets for a day of revelry with gay abandon. Nevertheless, I believe that it goes deeper than that. Whilst it is true that the crowds walking the street do not necessarily know much about Ireland but what is also true that they think that being Irish is cool and fun. That positive affirmation of different nationalities is an endearing aspect of the US and perhaps owes itself to the human instinct for tracing their roots.
In the late afternoon and evening, I met a Ghanaian friend who has an interesting business idea. We brainstormed for a while and he promised to help us find investors. Thereafter, I worked for a while before meeting someone from McKinsey and a whole bunch of doctors through an oncologist friend who invited me to a party hosted by his friends.
It ended up being a late night and I fell asleep in the Subway. When I woke up, I had missed my stop and was a million miles away from where I was supposed to be. Needless to say, I managed to get back and stayed awake for the rest of the way by deleting the over four thousand emails that had accumulated on my Blackberry. So it was not so bad after all, I managed to get a major and painful chore done.
Friday, 16th March 2012
Friday began with a meeting with our lawyers, Michael Schwamm and Mauro Wolfe of Duane Morris. We had an extremely productive meeting. To my shame, I had overslept and was exactly an hour late. They were both very gracious about it as was their Associate, Alexandra Berman. After the meeting, I had to follow up on the various tasks and went into the zone at a coffee shop. Only in the evening, did I finally tear myself off from the laptop and leave for dinner. Mathias and Sybille hosted me and the two of them are dear friends. Mathias and I were together at Oxford and used to run together. Sybille is his wife and both of them have a beautiful young daughter, Helena. Both of them feed me when they get the chance and were kind enough to invite Kenneth Oriwa, my Kenyan friend of impressive physique and even more impressive hair, as well. We had a fantastic dinner, much good conversation and parted late into the night.
Thursday, 15th March 2012
I will pick up the story from the bus ride to New York. As usual, I fell asleep like a log on the bus and, once I got into town, I made my way to the Credit Suisse building on 1 Madison Avenue, where an event on trade and investment on Africa was being organized by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA) that featured Teresa Clark, the CEO of Africa.com, and Tony Elumelu, Chair of The Tony Elumelu Foundation as speakers and CNN’s Ali Veshi as moderator. I met all three of them and found them all impressive. Tony Elumelu is a man who has achieved much and is one of the most impressive people I have met. He is invariably insightful, modest to a fault and extraordinarily warm. Even though he was mobbed by the audience after the event, he was very engaging in his conversation with me. Teresa Clark was remarkably witty and Ali Veshi was not too far behind. All three of them wanted to learn more about Fair Observer and I hope to continue my conversation with them.
Apart from the famous folk, I met numerous others who were enthused and supportive of the idea of Fair Observer. It is not only time for the world to sit up and take note of Africa but also factor in what Africa thinks about the rest of the world. A new generation of Africans is on the rise. They are ambitious, entrepreneurial and educated. They want their societies to do better and are asking the right questions even though they are far from figuring out the answers.
For instance, after the event I went for drinks with Kenneth Oriwa, William Olukoya and Roselyne Kiragu, all of whom have studied at top institutions and succeeded in the best companies of the world. They now have the exposure, skills and confidence to lead in all realms and it is this generation of Africans that will spearhead the change in the continent. Africa has many challenges. The borders do not correspond to historic tribal territories, the forms of governance are colonial legacies needing modernization and there is the huge challenge of marrying efficiency with equity, a problem that every society including the US is struggling with. However, a start has been made. Africa has now seen a telecommunications revolution. Cell phones have transformed economic and social life forever. Roads, railways and ports are finally being built, even if by the Chinese. The next challenge is power generation and, hopefully, that will come in due course too. Apart from the physical infrastructure, we are now seeing the beginnings of social and institutional infrastructure building in many countries. Of course, there will be pitfalls along the way, but in the long run, I am bullish on Africa. A continent of over a billion people is beginning to come of age and it is an exciting time for the world.
This is Atul writing from our office in Washington DC. There are certain occasions when things manage to go right despite our best efforts and I have had a few such occasions over the last few hours. Despite being a bumbling fool and deserving to miss my flight to the East Coast, I have managed to get to the East Coast and meet one of the men I admire immensely for the way he has led his life.
Thursday, 15th March 2012
I arrived after not sleeping at all on the plane as I was busy writing. Once in Washington DC, I came straight to an event hosted by The Atlantic where Sir Richard Branson was speaking. I have always been an admirer of the founder of the Virgin group. His life has been one great adventure and his brand building nous is nothing short of legendary. Anyway, it is my birthday and I can say that I have had the most perfect start to it by meeting Sir Richard Branson. Hopefully, he will write an article or two for us about the issues he cares about and perhaps even give us some advice as to how to emulate him. His first venture was a magazine called Student and when I read his autobiography, Losing my Virginity, I could not help marveling at the chutzpah with which he ran Student.
It is time for me to dash off to New York where I have to attend a conference on Africa. One of the great perks of being Editor-in-Chief is meeting people from around the world, learning about the issues they care about and that affect where they come from, and be an engaged citizen of the world. I suppose this sounds bombastic so I have to figure out how to say this more simply. Meanwhile, I have to run and make sure that I am not sprinting again to catch the bus that shall soon be leaving for New York. I will be sure to post an update more frequently going forward.
Wednesday, 14th March 2012
I began the day early by getting our aged Black Beauty, the 1994 BMW registered with the Californian authorities. This was followed by intense discussions with Christian Becker and Christian Franz regarding a cool project that they are initiating. Then I spoke briefly to Annika Neujahr and Devanshi Jalan, two precocious women who are keeping our editing engine running. Then it was packing up, showering and just about catching the Caltrain to San Francisco. I fell asleep on the train.
When the train arrived in the city I walked over to meet Betty and Jim who were taking me out to dinner. They are parents of Ben Fuller, my closest friend with whom I lived when I first arrived in Oxford. They are wonderful people and have always taken good care of me for the last ten years.
Jim brought along a great wine, the Echezeaux of 1982 vintage. It costs a fortune and it was very generous of Jim to share the wine with me. We ate at a very fine French restaurant, RN 74 at 301 Mission Street, San Francisco and then talked till late. My watch was still on winter time and I did not realize how late it was when I set off to the airport. I only caught the flight because of the generosity of the check-in lady who ushered me in even though there were a mere 15 minutes left for the flight to take off. The only time that I have edged it closer was when I boarded a plane in Lucknow by sprinting across the tarmac just as it was about to close its doors. One day I have to cut out some of the added excitement in my life. Perhaps the Germans in the team will be able to make me more meticulous in the months and years to come.
This is Atul in Sunnyvale after eating too much and staying awake on Diet Pepsi. It has been 200 years since I wrote the blog and I have no excuses. People far busier than me manage to write on a regular basis but I slip up all the time. I have been trying to blame my chaotic Indian upbringing, my wild imagination, the distracting Californian blondes and much more but, at the end of the day, I have to hold my hand up and take the blame. From now on, I will try to do better and we will strive to involve other folks in the Fair Observer team to tell our story. Our intention is to capture the various narratives that inform the Fair Observer story and without further ado I will give you an update of the days past in a sentence or two. I am attempting a haiku without the talent but with the chutzpah to have a go at it nevertheless.
Before I carry on, I have to share some news. My niece, Vidushi, was born today in Hong Kong. Amit, my brother, and Swati, my sister-in-law, will have their hands full if she turns out anything like me.
Tuesday, 13th March 2012
Finally after $600 of repairs, our aged Black Beauty, the 1994 BMW, passed the smog test. Now we can register it with the Californian authorities finally!
On the work front, we had our big platform meeting, nearly a major contract that we will announce soon and caught up with other things.
Monday, 12th March 2012
Finally after a tune-up and more repairs, our Black Beauty passed the smog test. In the evening we met a number of Stanford students and recent graduates at Arabella Napier’s home. She is a dear friend, a mother of three boys who knows how to feed an army and collect interesting people around her. Her father was the Mayor of Henley and her mother was born in India and she combines modernity with tradition that the best of the English do. It was a terrific evening and Arabella gave me some stuff to read as homework.
Sunday, 11th March 2012
I started off the day talking to Andrew Pollen in Barcelona and ended it talking to folks in India. We discussed a range of subjects such as editorial calendar and understanding our audience. During the day I played football or what the Americans call soccer. It was not a day of intense focus or great inspiration but I plodded on and got some things done.
Saturday, 10th March 2012
I took the train to Davis to attend Alexander Coward’s 30th birthday party. Someone committed suicide by lying on the tracks and all of us passengers had to take alternative methods of transport. We had glorious conversations full of wit and humor. The birthday party went well. I slept late but well.
Friday, 9th March 2012
For once I overslept and missed some appointments. This is the first time that I have done so since I moved to California. Anyway, the afternoon was productive, the evening was fun – we played football (soccer if you are American) and the evening a disaster. I missed the last train back from Palo Alto and had to take a hyper expensive taxi back home. I will be sure to watch the clock next time!
Thursday, 8th March 2012
It was a day of frenetic activity when Fabian flew back to Germany and we discussed what we had to do over the coming days. I drove Fabian to the airport, wished him well and returned to work till late at night. We are almost there with our ideas as to our product, our platform and much more. The days have flown by but we feel that we have momentum on our side. Come mid-April, we should be ready for take-off.
Wednesday, 7th March 2012
The day was defined by our marathon session with Dirk Leuth. Dirk is a fascinating fellow who started the Financial Times in Germany, did a PhD in Economics, swam competitively, was involved with Lycos and did a host of other impressive things before deciding to become our mentor. He has been extremely generous with his time and honest in his feedback. We have had to pull up our socks, rethink our assumptions and come up with a more solid business case. This was a day when we began at 2.00 pm and worked till 9.00 pm on our Executive Summary. We think that finally we are nearly there. With a few tweaks we should be ready to go.
We ended the day with a celebratory meal at Madras Café. We ate dosa that was delicious as usual and we had a good time together. This day was significant as it was the day of Holi, the Indian spring festival of color and joy. It is perhaps the one day when I miss India. Growing up, we would throw color on each other, eat gujiya – a sweet made of khoya (milk heated slowly until it turns solid) and go around meeting friends and family. Holi is the Dionysian festival of India and I prefer it to any other festival.
Instead of celebrating Holi, we worked all day. I take it as a good omen that we worked on our Executive Summary. Hopefully, we will raise enough capital from the right investors and make Fair Observer fly.
Tuesday, 6th March 2012
We worked on our pitch deck and gave a presentation to Heather Todd, a psychologist who is helping us forge a better team. We were tired and flat, perhaps due to little sleep over the last few days. Christian Becker, our co-founder and MD/PhD suggested that Fabian and I take time off to recharge our batteries.
Monday, 5th March 2012
We made a big decision and decided to fly Francis Flavin, a dear friend and ally, to India for a media conference organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Our advisor, Dr. Rajiv Kumar, who heads FICCI invited us for the conference and unfortunately both Fabian, Christian and I could not make it because we were committed to attending other events. Francis volunteered to represent us and we were delighted that he could make it.
Sunday, 4th March 2012
We had another busy Sunday with work, meetings and football (soccer if you are American). Yet again, the day fled by and it was only late at night that we finished going through our pitch deck.
Saturday, 3rd March 2012
There are days when emails seem endless and the battle of the inbox is wears one’s soul and this was one such day. I get over 300 emails a day and I am still struggling to prioritize them. My compulsive instinct to answer all emails is perhaps not the wisest one. If you have ideas as to how to handle email, please let me know. If you have ideas and your name is Elizabeth Ricker, then you don’t count because you have an asymmetric double advantage because you have better genes and better intellectual training as you studied neuroscience at MIT.
Speaking of MIT, we hosted some friends from that august institution who have just raised some money for their startup from folks such as Peter Thiel, one of the first investors in Facebook. I cooked dinner and we drank far too much for our own good but it was a wonderful evening.
Friday, 2nd March 2012
We had a day of meetings with mentors who ripped our presentation to shreds, leaving us with a lot of work to do over the weekend. We decided to celebrate the arrival of Annika Neujahr from Germany but she was not feeling too well. So the boys and I went to Palo Alto for our customary burger and drinks. Our friend DJ owns The Workshop on University Avenue and it is becoming an abiding favorite for all of us as he makes the best burgers in Silicon Valley. We then went to have a few drinks at Nola and met some interesting characters.
Thursday, 1st March 2012
This turned out to be one crazy day with one meeting after another and the highlight of the day was a conversation with Dr. Rajiv Kumar, the big boss of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) who invited us to a big media conference in Mumbai.
Wednesday, 29th February 2012
The good thing about leap years is that they give us one extra day. I wonder what it must feel like to have a birthday on 29th February. One birthday every four years must certainly lead to much anticipation and exuberant celebrations. The special event of the day was talking to an Italian mentor in Europe who gave us a number of tips, some of which were simply sensational. Now it is up to us to work on them.
Tuesday, 28th February 2012
We had a long coaching session with Dirk Lueth, whom I have mentioned before. My Dutch friend who is a physicist arrived for a brief visit and we had yet another ridiculously busy day.
Monday, 27th February 2012
Fabian, Christian and I gave a talk at the German International School. We got the kids involved in discussing the media and they told us what they liked and what they did not like. We had a terrific experience and learnt more from the kids than they learnt from us. In the evening, I went to an event in San Francisco organized by the Italian accelerator. There were people from all around the world at the event and we had a most glorious time. We were most impressed by the talent and range of startups in the room. The Bay Area is special because it attracts the best and the brightest from around the world. There is a critical mass of talent that leads to a constant flow of ideas and an ecosystem that is perfect for innovation.
Sunday 26th February, 2012
The day had two key highlights – football (soccer for Americans) and discussions about marketing. We also thought about the various options on our table and what would be our most optimal choices.
Saturday, 25th February 20112
We had a busy day contacting advisors and other supporters. We spoke to one of them – Sanay Sarma of MIT - in the evening. Sanjay is a super bright guy who is the man behind RFID technology. He is bursting with ideas and an incredibly impressive fellow interested in history, Sanskrit, Avesta and much more. He gave us the idea to develop a new product for our audience – it is a powerful idea and we will have to work hard to refine it further and bring it to life.
Friday, 24th February 2012
It was a day of running errands, answering emails and finalizing documents. We had one very interesting meeting with a former entrepreneur who knew little about our space but did not know the limitations of his knowledge. Early success can sometimes be a poisoned chalice as those who succeed become smug and thereby age before their time.
Thursday, 23rd February 2012
The highlight of the day was a meeting with a prospective investor. He was French and he gave us a number of ideas as to how to improve our pitch deck. We also spoke to someone in Al Jazeera, London and he gave us some solid advice.
Wednesday, 22nd February 2012
The highlight of the day was meeting David Bell, my old friend from New Zealand who is a Marketing Professor at Wharton. David is a most impressive chap who plays rugby, is part of a rock band and swims like a fish. Tall, rugged and handsome, he is every inch the glamorous marketing professor. He gave us a number of suggestions and we now have our homework cut out for us..
Tuesday, 21st February 2012
We spent a long time working on basic assumptions. The highlight of the day was our meeting with Dirk Leuth, our mentor of Financial Times fame. We picked up the most impressive Christian Franz from the San Francisco Airport. Christian is one of the most impressive people we know and we have had a wonderful time with him. One day, when he is done with his studies, we hope to give him an offer that he cannot refuse. He has to join us at Fair Observer as he is family.
After receiving many mails and calls from our friends and supporters we decided to start a Fair Observer photo story that chronicles our adventures in Silicon Valley and beyond.
The first part covers how we have got started. Check our blog out next week to find out how the Fair Observer team lives, breathes and dreams!
Enjoy the story!
Your Fair Observer Team
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