Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 22, 2014

Be like a Tree

For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.

In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.

Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.

And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labour is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree.

He wants to be nothing except what he is.

That is home.

That is happiness.
–Herman Hesse


Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 20, 2014

Are you ready to be a Social Age leader or roadkill ?

If you are ready to be a Social Age leader, you must exhibit these traits and practice daily your best on these issues.

In the past, all people working in corporations, organizations, and in government — did what they were told and then went home.

But that rigorous top down hierarchical model of leadership and stratified existence that defined the Industrial Age which is pretty much dead and buried — is now gone.

It’s so dead, it’s not ever coming back.

In it’s stead, a new age of management has arisen.

Some people call the Age of Social.

Or Social Age.

So welcome to the Social Age.

We humans are Social beings as Aristotle and Socrates taught us. We are Social down to our very core. We live and die by being Social. And Social is not just who we are and what we do. It’s flat out, what we are.

We are Social Beings always, connecting and communicating; sharing ideas, news, tips and sometimes warnings; making introductions; mating and breeding, birthing and dying, and always growing our influence or diminishing it, by our own actions. That’s all we are and that all we’ve ever been and done.

At first, of course, connections were limited to the confines of our cave dwelling family. Then the tribe. Then the village. Recently we had organized societies that posted letters that tied us together over great distances. Phone lines came and then e-mail and this allowed us to connect globally. Yet, mobile arrived and Wi-Fi and brought us seamlessly always connecting and always dropping off, but mostly always on. Yet even with all these advances in technology, communication is limited in scope: one person connecting with one other and sometimes for the most powerful, numerous others.

Now, 2 billion of us are connected, many of us by just one or two degrees of separation. At most six or eight degrees but these delineating lines are blurred because the voice of the people supersedes these separation lines. Vox Populi is now everywhere and magnificently so. Not all of it is interesting and most of it is shrill and paranoid but it’s there. And flaming is ever present in the argumentative websphere. But here we are…

Yet today, many more people are coming online each and every day and the entire globe is getting smarter with smart phones and devices on the ready, so that we are carrying the entire Web around in our pockets and purses.

Soon everyone will be just a thumb-press away from everyone else.

What does that mean to the Social Leader, a phenomenon still so rare people refer to it in the book “A World Gone Social” as the Blue Unicorn ?

Through the world gone social, you — and your customers, employees, vendors, and even your competitors, are all just one or two social connections from each other. And they’re all talking to each other, with or without your participation.

This is driving PR professionals nuts, because nobody will listen to them when they stray too far from the truth. It’s causing those corporate recruiters who represent less-than-desirable employer brands to pull their hair out, because current and past employees are speaking to each other and to potential workmates. And within our organizations, this unfettered connectedness and freedom of Speech, is killing the Industrial Age belief that all-knowing corporate, political, and government leaders wield all the power.

When everyone has knowledge, where does power come from?

Depending on your outlook, you choose: It either comes from the people or top down. In both cases you are wrong. It comes from the most Visionary and Vocal ones.

Remember this…

And you are either going to love living and for some of you “leading” in the Social Age, or you’ll hate it.

Regardless — none of us gets a vote on how the Future comes to be shaped unless we design it. And happily for some of us — the Social Age has already changed how we lead. Yet for you and many others, we still have a choice on how good we’ll be in this era of change.

But you’ve got to come Clean, because in the Social Age, truth and transparency rules.

Peel back this grossly overused buzzword — truth & transparency — and explore what it really means to you and your company or organization today. And you’ll see that it is really different than what it was at the time of Julius Caesar.

For today it means there is no hiding — and PR along with corporate and government spin is seen through the eyes of millions of potential skeptics. Lies are either ignored or exposed and plastered all over the Internet. Half and full truths are always discovered. Somebody always knows better. In the end if you want to lead — You must have the last word.

And regardless of spin — the last word is Visionary Truth.

Because in this new, socially enabled era leaders and companies that embrace transparency and Vision are the ones that are led ethically, and thus have a distinct advantage over their Industrial Age counterparts — who still think they can tell employees and customers how to think.

In the Social Age: Empowerment isn’t optional but mandatory. People are far more empowered behind their keyboard than any PR Doctor of Spin in the Corporate or Government Headquarters.

Remember that.

But what is the key to employee empowerment?
Simple: Give employees and coworkers, the keys, the tools, and the time, they need to create, communicate and collaborate, and share with the world. In short give them space and incentives to create a safe, respectful, and uplifting work environment — and then get out of the way.

After all, intelligent and capable team members don’t need your permission to work well together. They don’t need your blessing to creatively solve problems. They just need to understand the “why” and double down on the Vision. Then the Agenda is set. And all that remains is that they need to believe in the mission. And for that they surely need your support.

In the Industrial Age, leaders focused on “buy-in” often through manipulation, by cultivating clientilism, by engaging in widespread horse trading, and by simply buying votes, hearts, and minds, in dark & smoky backroom deals.

But in the Social Age all is out in the light of day, and he who has eyes will see. Thus all employees, clients, followers, citizens, and all others — once they see the objective — they self power up. They really empower themselves. Wise leaders who have VISION and empower their People know and cultivate this because it is the most delightful role one can play.

And because Social Age Leaders are adaptable — they are giving up their role as controllers and becoming coordinators, facilitators, and motivators. And they are doing this quietly, willingly, and cheerfully, because they are smart and it is also far easier to let go and fly…

Yes – you need a lot less energy to lead this way but it takes balls, guts, and faith, in yourself, your capacities, and in all the others…

Today’s best leaders simply lead by Visioning. The Vision thing, is what Great Leaders who aspire to inspire have.

And they have plenty of trust, going both ways. Because in the Social Age: Trust is everything…

The trust imperative isn’t about getting others to trust you as a leader. That is good but to be great You must be able to trust your people to work and deliver, like the mature, responsible adults you hired them to be.

This means tearing up rule books, discarding employee manuals, and throwing out antiquated policies designed to help managers exert control. And it means backing off the stifling metrics Industrial Age management often used to ensure everyone was doing exactly what was expected and saying exactly what they were supposed to say.

In this Social and increasingly Sharing Economy, it is the inventive and solution-oriented organizations that will survive and thrive.

The other ones will be roadkill on the great Progress Highway.

Old-school procedures are being replaced rapidly with ingenuity and creativity.

Antiquated customer service scripts are replaced with creativity.

And only those employees who feel 100 percent trusted are ingenious enough and willing to stick their necks out and make a real difference — even if only for one customer at a time.

One Citizen at a time.

One voter at a time.

One Human Being at a time.




Yes – the Social Age isn’t for sissies.

Yes – for many folks, this transition won’t be easy.

Yes – change is painful…

But change is inevitable and the Social Age of Leadership is already here.

So. that makes the question you must answer quite simple:

Are you ready to be a Social Age Driver, leader, follower, or just roadkill ?

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 17, 2014

Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction is the process our world is going through and it causes a great deal of Disruption, Disorder, and generally nasty and painful destruction.

But that is the process of Change and the power of big leaps and bold steps in the right direction. Baby steps alone will not do…

You’ve got to break eggs to make an omelette. You’ve got to break things and demolish the old structure in order to find the building lot, and the materials to rebuild a solid home on site.

Yes – I admit, there may be too much instability in the world at the moment. But it is also a Great Moment in History. Yes — things could go this way or that way, but whether it is the disruptive effects of technology, the fickle economy, the environment, the military crisis in Europe and the Middle East with Syria, Ukraine, Isis, the Fukushima Radiation, or even the impact of a separate Scotland on the rest of the UK, and the Chinese assertiveness and militarism of the SE Asia looming conflicts, or whatever nightmare scenario you can think of — chances are this too shall pass.
And the world will still be a pretty nice place to live and be… in relative Peace. But only if You believe that. And that takes a positive mind and a winning attitude.

Stay the course — but we need to disrupt some structures and change some things… In short – we need to innovate.

Always, I tend to be a half full rather than a half empty glass person, and I always resist the doom and gloom message of the media. And History has proven me right, almost always. But sometimes things break bad.

And one cannot resist being impacted by this avalanche of negativity all around. Just look at Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News media and You won’t sleep at night, afraid of the ISIS coming out from under your bed. And because there are no guarantees that we will face these challenges boldly and do well, is best to ignore them, because our old, centralised ways of doing things aren’t up to the job. The grown ups have lost the plot. Head on doesn’t cut it anymore…

Diplomacy rules.

When I spoke in Estonia’s Tallinn University, same as in Latvia’s top Uni, and Lithuania, in advance of the European elections — I faced just such an electric current. And then I went to Ukraine and saw the mayhem. A fully corrupt state with a civil war raging amidst a failed state apparatus and despondent people who thought it more profitable to grab a gun and kill their neighbours than to seek gainful employment.

Young people were mobilized for a new Europe that they saw themselves as part of and as the wellspring of Hope and Optimism. And they fought in the Maidan mighty battles. And many of them gave up their lives, for no good reason except when seen as a communal step towards Liberty and Democracy. And after losing part of their national sovereignty through Crimea’s annexation to the “Soviet Bear” of today’s Russian nihilism, they succeeded to join the family of Free nations named Europe. As of yesterday Ukraine has joined Europe as a fast track member.

All these thoughts were present in my head, but when I found myself walking around the “modern” parts of Kiev, I saw them full of large, and dirty, concrete housing estates, full of big buildings, populated by tired, unemployed, and depressed, former Soviet state workers.

All of them ripe for change towards the old system — they knew best.

It’s crazy to want to go back to the old system of Soviet madness but then I thought of the challenges of an old order collapsing and how little as an individual you can do to stop that. I thought of programmes, like the one I was supporting, to rebuild the fabric of a productive life through the European Union’s initiatives. I also thought of the typical state supported initiatives that would just create new dependencies for the people — and rejected this right out of hand.

I thought that not everyone can be entrepreneurial, or Europeanized, or able to change — but people should be given the tools to change and the time and space necessary to do so. Menawhile they need to be retrained in order to learn new tricks and trades, for a new economy of entrepreneurship. And although I felt powerless to help directly, I thought “What’s Europe going to do for these people if they cannot fight the enemy themselves first ?”

And the enemy am talking about, is within…

But then I thought that any lasting solution is going to come from small steps. Adding value to someone you know. Helping the person next to you do something they currently can’t. It comes from relationship, from one person reaching out and connecting with another. From rebuilding trust. From taking responsibility.

We have the tools to reach out, to work harder at understanding, to see more opportunities for connecting, to get better at taking responsibility and helping each other. It all starts with that next human rights update. It all starts with Liberty, Justice and the pursuit of Democracy.

The Happiness will follow.

For everyone, because we have the means to organize to connect, to push for Positive Change that we want and not the random negative stuff that comes down the pike.

That is a very important step, because Change is inevitable, but what kind of Change we get is up to us.

So be the Change you want to see in the world…

And make sure this must be the Positive Change that starts within.

Stay Positive to All Changes.

Stay positive and teach peace.

Like a Mother does it.

Do the best you can for the world and do it as a mother does. Because the Good Mother teaches her child with love and patience until the child learns. But she also sets the tone by example. So, you can lead by example and keep on teaching Peace and Positive Thoughts to all, but especially to those around you. Colleagues, coworkers, employees, friends and above all else family.

So, please be like a “Mother” and teach your mind to have positive thoughts and to let go of worries.

Then when your mind needs peace, it will obey you, and You will spread the Peaceful Message to all around you.

Meditation, silence, happiness, love and gratefulness are the most important aspects of Life. Meditation leads to Success through a quiet, orderly, and well mastered mind. Happiness leads to good health, social success and many happy returns. Silence leads to discovery. Gratefulness leads to EVERYTHING POSITIVE.

That’s my Gift to You…

However, it is only you who can give this gift medicine for the soul and body, to yourself.

Choose wisely: Choose happiness.

Am cautioning here because there are many people out there who like to be more like Moffos than Mothers. And these grouchy folks, bring illness to themselves and to the world, through anger, greed, unfulfilled desires, expectations, suppression of feelings and relationships of usage and use, but not ones based on love.

If you do this. Stop it. Change… Look in your heart, you will know where your illness comes from.



There are three ingredients for a long and healthy life: live with attention but without worry; use time in a worthwhile way; keep your thoughts pure, positive and filled with strength.

“I dive into someone’s life, however briefly, for the thrill of the unexpected, to glimpse a world I might not otherwise see.”

"I dive into someone's life, however briefly, for the thrill of the unexpected, to glimpse a world I might not otherwise see."


From a Friend

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 12, 2014

A tale from St Augustine

Hope had two beautiful daughters…

Named, Anger and Courage…

Anger for the way things are and Courage for the strength to change them…

Got It?

Two to three billion people live at the bottom of the pyramid — depending how we are counting.

Some of them live on a quarter a day, but most of them are totally out of the financial system and thus we are unable to estimate their earning power. And yet they all live full lives — albeit different than ours. No dependencies and no economic system oppression. No monetary rewards and no shinny trinkets either. No TV sets and washing machines, and no electricity headaches either. Maybe a more rural and backwards style of living but many people find retro lifestyles rather appealing. An agrarian population would have a hell of a time in the city and resort to return to the land if that was an option. Now imagine these people penned up in closed ghettos of the refugee camps and Internally Displaced People’s Camps, the IDP hell holes that the UN doesn’t supervise.

So the Bottom of the Pyramid folks, they represent collectively the greatest untapped power of the human civilization and of the human family but are paying a double cost for being outside the Economy.
For one their lives are harder and for another they are always at the whim of any kind of change to be uprooted like so many tumble weeds. Yet they have families and lead full lives through Love and Human Connection. And make no mistake — not all of these lives are bad. These people are smiling more than some Westerners I know who have lots of money but nothing else…

My friends the refugees are destitute, leading good honest lives. Poor yes — Bad No. Sometimes they live happily and sometimes are moved around like jetsam and flotsam in the tides of migrating humanity forced from home by failing agriculture due to Climate Change or war and famine and even worse.

But here one has to wonder what is the Non State solution to this problem?

We have more than a Billion people living in some form of refugee camp or another. Living in conditions of helplessness and despair.

What can we do for these people?

Is it possible that becoming an entrepreneur could help a refugee live a better life?

Methinks: YES

And here is my reasoning:

I recently had the opportunity to join the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for a visit to the Gaza camp after the vicious bombing by Israel’s army and airforce…

I was stunned…

Nothing worked.

And yet the young kids and eager families were just preparing for school opening.

The only real schools in Gaza, are those operated by the UN and one third of them have been bombed to pieces, although they were designated as shelters and refugee children family safe areas.

The IDF army didn’t respect the UN schools, the hospitals, and the air raid shelters, so why do we expect that they will respect anything else?

What can You say?

War is not just.

But Peace is not just either.

So recognizing the growing importance of UN programs that provide education and primary schooling inside and outside of refugee and IDP camps is very important…

This is indeed the most important thing the UN can do in Gaza and so many other places ravaged by war, like that.

But we also need to do more and provide for the kids when they get out of school. We need to help young adults gain a valuable Life and become part of the Economy so they can built a stake in the Peaceful Future. Because that is the only way to bring about a lasting peace and to take their minds off revenge.

What I think is most important is to develop innovation and entrepreneurship, in order to lift these people up from their misery.

Business development, innovation, entrepreneurship and the creative powers of commerce will bring these people back from the warpath of hate and fear and drive them to commerce and peace. Mutual dependencies will inevitably arise between Gaza and Israel and thus the rift between these ancient Peoples will be bridged.

Today these individuals living in Gaza, have no opportunity for higher education. Yet by Human Rights standards, they should be given the opportunity to study and follow their talents. The Gazan children will be far better if they were to become software engineers, medical doctors, computer scientists, and space explorers, and maybe then delve into what ever professional fields generate good livelihoods. In Peace and in Prosperity.

The people I met in Gaza had been uprooted from their homes because of conflict and violence. A large majority of them totally lacked jobs and the simple necessities of Life were very hard to come by. Handouts of victuals were constrained. Medicine was non existent. Books are embargoed by Israel. And with all the hospitals bombed — the care of Life is a joke. No wonder the average Life Expectancy of the Gazan people is less than half that of Israelis in general.

Living under a total blockade and a tight embargo is also making their lives shitty and the complete lack of adequate economic opportunities and job skills, makes their lives even more vulnerable to disease, to the desperate calling of radical religious ideology, and to an early grave.

The vagaries of Life in such a place are tremendous. Yet human resilience is immense.

Yet although am an optimist, I found it really hard to see any sign of hope there amidst the ruins. The only thing that is keeping the Gazan people alive is an all encompassing hate and grief. It’s that overwhelming feeling and the anger for revenge that keeps the people from committing mass suicide…

The last time I visited Gaza I met many young children who wanted to become martyrs and suicide bombers when they would grow up…


This time I noticed that the Gazan children all aspired to become rocketeers…


Just so they can build and fly rockets over the giant cement “Berlin Wall” against the unseen Israeli “Iron Dome” patriot defences. These young rocket engineers are hoping to defeat the anti-missile defences and then get a simple triumph, by exploding their payload over the skies of their common land. But most of these tiny rockets are nothing more than firecrackers common in the 4th of July celebrations and in China’s independence day. They might make some noise but cause no harm…

As am seeing their efforts to make better and higher flying firecrackers, I am thinking it’s not too far fetched to get them to become space engineers and harness all this talent in the pursuit of commercial grade technology for space exploration and development Missions by sending rockets outside of our Earth.

Unfortunately for every firecracker flying over the wall by a Gazan kid rocketeer, an Israeli cruise missile with the power of hundreds of tons of explosives comes back destroying and flattening whole neighbourhoods.

Yet, in the midst of this carnage — I saw opportunity. I saw the glimmer of hope amongst the young people building rockets and weapons. I thought of them as a business that perhaps through entrepreneurship, can be shifted to a new place.

Turn the swords into plowshares, and a business is born. A shared economy of education and a fully functioning Human Library for education, is what I started and now operate in Gaza. That is the only place where I saw hope.

Gaza is filled with young people who want the chance to provide for their families. By fostering entrepreneurship and providing skills training, through education, sharing of technical and science books and learning, we can be helping open the doors of economic opportunity for the young people — and save them from the claws of the violent jihaddis. We are thus fostering PEACE in the long term.

Join us in supporting the life-changing work of the Environmental Parliament in teaching Innovation and Green Entrepreneurship, through the Human Library project, and the Innovation Master Class that I personally teach quite a few times per year.

With your help, refugees in Gaza will have increased to technical education, access to science, technology and to vocational, technical, and business skills training. This will allow the people of Gaza the chance to build their professional skills and ultimately build better lives for their families by either creating or getting jobs that will take them up to the middle class and thus make them “investors” in the peace process.

That’s how Peace is born. Conflict Resolution at it’s finest. Want you to join me soonest… and if you want to volunteer — please holler here.
We hope you will support EP’s innovative and life-saving work.

What a way to use Innovation for positive and peaceful progress.

Don’t you agree?



We need to do simple things, like delivering Innovative Education leading to jobs and to the creation of an entrepreneurial Commercial Class, akin to middle class, followed by Entrepreneurial Institution building, and Entrepreneurial Public Policy…

Then Gaza will be sorted and the war with Israel will get forgotten

While Apple has it’s unveiling of the new iPhone and iWatch or apple watch etc, the biggest IPO in history is coming to New York in the same month and is going on almost unnoticed amidst the hoopla of Apple’s product launches. But this IPO promises to be bigger than Apple and all it’s glorious marketing muscle.

So this September there is an IPO that will open the door on the world’s largest e-commerce market of China.

The company? Alibaba, the Chinese retailer which, with a merchandise volume of $248bn, last year grossed more sales than Amazon and eBay combined.

So what’s so special about Alibaba, and can it go from being the biggest IPO (initial public offering) to being the most valuable company on earth?

(1) Alibaba 101 – What Is It?
Dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as “a mix of Amazon, eBay and PayPal with a dash of Google,” Alibaba is the e-commerce giant which handles 80% of all online retail in China. It was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, initially as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, a B2B platform connecting small Chinese manufacturers with buyers overseas. There is additionally a consumer-to-consumer site called (a bit like eBay), on which you can buy and sell any product imaginable. More recently it launched, a business-to-consumer portal that helps global brands such as Disney and Levi’s reach China’s middle classes (a bit like Amazon).

The scale is huge, and in just one day last year – a ‘Singles’ Day’ promotion held every year on November 11th – the firm’s sales exceeded $5.7 billion. The connecting glue that enables all these transactions is Alipay, developed – like eBay acquired and further developed PayPal – because of the lack of a trustworthy online payments system. Alipay has likewise been extended to enable people to pay their mobile and utility bills, and is now China’s biggest third-party payment tool. Alibaba has also supported the growth of the logistics industry in China, although a recent KPMG has highlighted that if Alibaba is to keep up with its explosive growth projections, an additional $2.5 trillion may need to be invested in buying land and constructing warehouses alone over the next 15 years.

(2) From Hangzhou To The New York Stock Exchange – The Biggest IPO Ever?
Alibaba wasn’t always going to list on the New York Stock Exchange. Initially, it tried to list in Hong Kong, lobbying the Securities and Futures Commission and the stock exchange to be allowed to have a partnership structure that would have let its top executives nominate the majority of board members (as is permissible on the NYSE). This was a particular issue for Jack Ma, who wanted to be able to keep full managerial control of his company, even when Japan’s Softbank and Yahoo! have respective 34.4% and 22.6% stakes. Under its agreement with Yahoo, Alibaba will be buying back 20% of Yahoo’s stake (for at least $7 billion), and Yahoo will have the right to trade-in a further 20% if Alibaba lists by Dec 2015.

Ma would rather accept a potentially lower market valuation and retain control of his company. This control has in the past led to contentious results, such as when, in 2010, he and a handful of associates spun out the Alipay division into a separate company, without Yahoo’s consent. Alibaba claimed that it needed to spin out Alipay and turn it into a domestic entity, to prevent delays in obtaining an operating license under newly issued Chinese regulations. Investors in the New York IPO should be aware that it does not include Alipay – and may also wish to reflect on the fact that, by comparison, PayPal currently represents 43% of eBay’s revenue.

Yet even without Alipay, at around $20bn, Alibaba still looks likely to be the largest IPO in US corporate history, and possibly in the world. This will imply an underlying market capitalization of at least $168bn. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, it could actually be as high as $221bn. In a research note, he said, “We believe Alibaba could grow 40% in FY15 and 30% in FY16. We believe this would imply $15.3bn in revenue in Alibaba’s FY16.”

At a market cap of $221bn, Alibaba would be the 15th biggest company in the world (it would be the 33rd biggest at $168bn), even if at $15.3bn, it would only be the 257th biggest in terms of global revenue.

So with the bullish growth estimates going up and up, what are potential Alibaba investors actually speculating on? Cheung Kong Graduate School Of Business (CKGSB) professor Teng Bingsheng told Forbes Magazine: “This is a play on China and China’s internet sector, which has made a bigger impact than any other country in the world. In a metaphor that Jack Ma proposed, he was using a machine gun while traditional companies were still practicing martial arts.”

The Economist believes that “the ongoing shift from investment- to consumption-led growth means that firms that make it easy to sell directly to consumers should benefit disproportionately,” and that while, “internet penetration is still lower than in developed countries; China will surely catch up. One informed estimate holds that China’s e-commerce market could double by 2020, to over $600 billion.”

Yet as Alibaba Vice President Joe Tsai acknowledges, “Over 90% of our business is in China,” and this is currently very much a Chinese rather than a global growth play. He adds, “it’s actually natural that we start with China and use acquisitions and investments to complement our business growth. So I wouldn’t be surprised that we do most of our things in China. We’ll be very careful in expanding through acquisitions outside of China. Obviously there are cultural challenges.”

Other risk factors include Alibaba’s delay in going fully mobile, with the majority of its profits coming from its PC business. Facebook faced a similar challenge at the time of its IPO in 2012, although the majority of its revenue does now come from mobile. This is a particular concern given the rise of Tencent in China, and its mobile social-messaging app WeChat. This led The Economist to argue: “So successful is WeChat, at integrating social networking, payments, e-commerce and entertainment that it has been valued by some analysts at more than $60 billion, three times what Facebook paid for WhatsApp, another messaging service.”

3) Culture & Leadership: Ma The Chinese Dreamer & Warrior
As I discovered while researching my book ‘Dream to Last’, Chinese CEOs are fantastic at dreaming big, yet frequently lack the Western capacity of execution and innovation, which is needed to create truly great companies. Jack Ma is a notable exception. The first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes Magazine, first to be named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time, and one of ‘Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy’ by Forbes Asia, Ma’s success is attributed to his vision, perseverance, and daring.

He is aiming high: “Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way.”

And like many Chinese CEOs, Ma is much more focused on the long-term rather than next quarter’s earnings. Just three days after the company filed for its US IPO, Ma led a ‘mass wedding’ for Alibaba employees on May 9 in Hangzhou. There were 102 married couples, to resonate with the 102 years that Ma has said Alibaba shall survive. His blessing went: “The length of our marriage is 102 years, and we have 87 years left. After 87 years you can marry some else. But within these 87 years, you cannot change your mind.”

When I questioned Ma at a China conference in 2008 whether it was better for companies to build winning families rather just making money, he responded that, “people are responsible for their own families but companies should build a sense of shared community”. He is attempting to build a sense of this into the corporate culture, with employees having a stake in the company. In 2011, Alibaba set up an interest-free mortgage fund called ‘iHome’, and already, 4,000 employees have received over $150m in loans.

And in 1999, Ma also listed another 17 people as co-founders in the company; people who had been his English students where he was teaching at university. Vice President Joe Tsai comments: “What really, really struck me, was that it wasn’t just Jack himself, or it was himself with another one or two guys. It was Jack already was with a group of followers. Basically these were his students… I just saw this energy. They were working very hard. They seemed happy. They had that glimmer in their eyes. And I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is a guy who can really get people together. He’s a great leader. He can really build something’… Jack gave away a very substantial part of his equity to the founding team. That’s Jack. I think that is unique. You don’t see that in other places… Jack was all about being open and sharing from day one. I was quite amazed.”

Management gurus often talk about a “flattened hierarchy”, but again Ma is making it work in practice. He recognizes the need for individual recognition. On Day 1, all Alibaba employees have to come up with nicknames for themselves. COO Daniel Zhang’s nickname is Xiao Yao Zi, meaning ‘free and unfettered man’. He goes by ‘Old Xiao’. Ma’s nickname is Feng Qing Yang, which, according to The Financial Times, “comes from a reclusive swordsman character who was unpredictable and aggressive.” Ma acknowledges that he has a warrior spirit, commenting, “I had always wished that I was born in a period of war. I could have been a general. I thought about what I could have achieved in war.”

Finally, Ma has a social conscience, commenting, “We do not do business for survival, we are trying to positively impact the world. Society has given me so much, too much. What I can do is repay society.” His humble origins shape his guiding mission, as he reflects, “Others can imitate my management model, but they can never endure the hardships I have experienced, nor have my passion persistently to push forward.” Like Bill Gates, Ma has announced that he will give several billion dollars to finance, environmental, medical, and educational projects. He has been named chairman of the board of the Nature Conservancy in China.

He hopes that he can lift Chinese society, reflecting: “Just as the internet is revolutionising retail, we at Alibaba believe it will eventually do the same to fundamentally information-driven industries such as finance, education and healthcare. Once this change happens – once we are all connected – I believe the spirit of equality and transparency at the heart of the internet will make it possible for Chinese society to leapfrog in its development of a stronger institutional and social infrastructure… Our water has become undrinkable, our food inedible, our milk poisonous and worst of all the air in our cities is so polluted that we often cannot see the sun. 20 years ago, people in China were focusing on economic survival. Now, people have better living conditions and big dreams for the future. But these dreams will be hollow if we cannot see the sun.”

4) Global Battle: So Who Will Be The Most Valuable Company In The World?
In a world still adjusting to the loss of Steve Jobs, it is refreshing to find a such spirited and visionary entrepreneur in Jack Ma. In the next century, I believe that the truly great companies will be those which can successfully build global presence – succeeding both in China and the West – and continuing to do breakthrough innovation at scale.

Many Western companies have gone into China and failed – or, like Google, Facebook and Twitter – have been blocked out by the Chinese government. This has led to much ‘copycat innovation’ – with domestic players such as Baidu, RenRen and Sina Weibo filling the vacuum in search and social networking.

Rather than winning by default, what’s interesting about Alibaba is that, on a more level playing field, it managed to take on its Western equivalent, eBay, at home and win. Under Meg Whitman, eBay squandered an 85% market in e-commerce in China, after Alibaba launched its Taobao site. In a series of publicity stunts not unlike those of Virgin’s Richard Branson, Ma assumed the mantle of the underdog, proclaiming: “eBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangzi river. If we fight in the ocean, we lose; but if we fight in the river, we win.”

Former employee, Porter Erisman, told The New York Times. ““With eBay he liked looking foolish and stupid. From a Wall Street investors’ perspective, he was willing to run Alibaba into the ground to defeat eBay – the only thing worse than a smart competitor is a crazy one who is willing to just spend all their money with no hope of making a profit.”

Yet while Alibaba can win at home, there are not yet enough signs that it can “Open Sesame” on the markets of the West. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is already doing a excellent job of running a hypergrowth company that prioritizes giving customers the lowest possible prices at the lowest possible margins, over and above generating Wall Street profits.

CKGSB Professor Teng Bingsheng reminds us that, “Alibaba started as a bridge between China and the rest of the world. It was an import and export platform for the small to mid-sized importers in other parts of the world to find Chinese exporters.” With 90% of Alibaba’s revenues in China, for potential investors in the IPO, this is indeed a Chinese rather than a global play. When asked if Alibaba can repeat its success internationally, Bingsheng says, “Probably not any time soon… For the time being, Alibaba will probably focus on its e-commerce platform in China and maintain this bridge between the East and West.”

Against this backdrop, the world’s current most valuable company – Apple – is doing pretty well in China. Yes, Apple does software and services, but by being primarily a hardware device maker, it has managed to avoid some of the freedom of expression and big data pitfalls of other Silicon Valley companies entering China. With a premium brand appealing to fashion-conscious Chinese consumers, in 2013, Apple did $37.9bn of business in China, 4.5 times Alibaba’s current annual revenue. And with a long-awaited deal now completed to sell iPhones through China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular operator, last quarter Apple saw Chinese revenues jump 28%.

So Alibaba is currently a great bet on China, whose sheer domestic scale alone gives it a prospect – but no certainty – of becoming the most valuable company in the world. However, there is one domestic competitor in particular which could still steal Alibaba’s thunder. With a market cap of 1.2tn Hong Kong dollars ($166bn US), Tencent is an excellent company, with a similar market cap to that expected of Alibaba.

Tencent founder Pony Ma famously once said “To copy is not evil”, yet Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, has said of Tencent: “The problem with Tencent is there is no innovation, and all things are copied.”

Well, contradict this: Tencent’s WeChat messaging app has over 100m international users, and is one of the first examples of the kind of leapfrog innovation that’s likely to come from China to the West, rather than vice versa. With over a billion users overall, Tencent is already set to overtake Facebook’s 1.2bn users. So Jack Ma should keep a intense eye on Tencent.

Jack Ma came up with the name Alibaba while sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco, because, “e-commerce is global, so we needed a name that was globally recognized”. He said he asked a waitress whether she recognized the name and she said yes. In battle to become the biggest company of the 21st century, Alibaba is set up to be up in the top 5 or 6, alongside Tencent, Amazon, Google, and possibly eBay.

The overall winner will be the one that can be a true global player in the West, China and emerging markets, and become a real bridge between China and the West. For this company, it will be vital that the leadership at top ensures it continues to innovate, execute flawlessly and maintain integrity and connection with stakeholders.

Alibaba is in with a strong shout to overcome Apple as the world’s premier company, if it can continue to make the right big calls. As it moves towards IPO, Alibaba has been on a buying spree of smaller Western companies to attempt to bolster its global presence, but, as it matures and its organic growth continues, it’s going to have to make sure that a more global outlook from its Hangzhou heaquarters, and continued innovation, are firmly implanted in its DNA.

The world’s premier company will continue to be right on the tough calls to. In particular, I would bet that Jack Ma, like Steve Jobs, will be prepared to fight to the last to ensure his company succeeds. With the iPhone 6 and possible iWatch launch on Tuesday Sept. 9th, we’ll learn more this week about Apple’s innovation pipeline, and how much fight it has left in it… for the moment, Tim Cook seems to be on the backfoot.


PS: This Article was written by Steve Tappin, an old China Business hand and an incredible CEO and thinker. Steve is the CEO Xinfu, Host of BBC CEO Guru & Founder, and partner of

Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | September 10, 2014

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leaders Entrepreneurs & Company CEOs

I am a Communications Guy through and through…

But I started early on.

I founded my first “company” when I was a kid in a cold and distant Boarding School and going stir crazy from missing my family and friends — I used my Ham Radio to communicate with the world at large. I couldn’t help it, because am a Communications kinda guy, so I started sharing this with my new friends, and then when word got out — I offered the communication service to all of my classmates who streamed up in the attic of the school after curfew, and had a talk and listen party with “hamsters” all over the world. Before Internet these things were the Internet of the day. Like pico radios that brought down the Soviet Union, these after hours, ham radio sessions were all the rage.

A veritable party for geeky kids.

Needless to say immediately after the “Authorities” got wind of this, they shut me down. lesson learned, I started my second communication company in a completely Stealth Mode and run it quietly offering an improved service. Talk to Girl Ham radio operators. I must have been about seven or eight years old but who is counting.
Since then, I’ve cofounded, financed, ventured, or Angeled, and led hundreds of companies. Some of the best continued as Consulting Clients throughout my career – from startups and small businesses to large publicly held and Global Enterprises.

Along the way I have learned a thing or two as I have managed distributed teams of employees from America to Europe and China, and most places in between.

To claim that I have seen it all it would be boastful but there you have it. At least I’ve seen a lot in regards to leadership, HR and management.

And although am not perfect – I believe the best leaders are always learning, just like everyone else – but here are seven major mistakes I’ve seen leaders repeatedly make and sink companies completely. These are killer mistakes and are almost always will destroy a company because they are like criminal character flaws for a CEO. Thankfully if I can help it, the CEOs suffering from these are usually replaced just before they drive the boat on the rocks. That is why I call them seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, because they are a classification of vices and a strong part of Christian ethics, that has been used since early Christian times as an admonishment in order to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin.

So I’ll stick with the Christian theme in this story but because the sins are given in no particular order, as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony – we’ll mix them up. Good to remember that each sin is a form of Idololatry-of-Self with Pride and Avarice being the worst examples of where the subjective self-serving behaviour reigns over the objective and rational reality of the community of the World.

1) Pride, is the old nemesis of highly intelligent people: This can be felt deeply when CEOs are micro-managing people. Especially at the C-level, leaders should have confidence to let the people they hired do their job, which often includes managing a team of their own. Hold employees accountable with specific goals and metrics – if they don’t meet them, figure out why, together. But if you have to micro manage your team (see their To Do list every day, ask the same questions over and over, etc), you’ve either hired the wrong people or you’re not focused on the bigger picture.

2) Sloth: is taking relaxation of Standards too far and taking the company to a new Low. It comes when the CEO is being perceived as “too hands-off” And although “sloth” might seem contradictory to the point above about Pride, you can’t disappear as a leader, either. There’s a difference between paying attention and ensuring everyone is meeting goals, vs stepping away and never checking in on progress towards those goals, while you are signing off electronically on your own salary receipts and Executive Compensation from your yacht in Saint Tropez. It’s not good leadership form to ask, “Is it done?” the day something is due, or even when you remember it a few days or even weeks later…

3) Wrath: is worrying all the time about everything and being angry at your people. Screaming at folks and employees and then start worrying about hurting everyone’s feelings. On the one hand, you need to lead in a positive manner, yet on the other hand, this is business. You can’t keep everyone happy, nor should you try. Screaming and causing break downs and then retreating and trying to avoid the inevitable conflict or the tough decisions due to fear of hurting someone’s feelings is a good way to lead in the wrong direction and damage people and the company irrepairably. As a matter of fact always take a deep breath before you “excommunicate” someone and before you attack the people for faults of their own or for a general organizational failure which is ultimately, failure to lead. And it rests with you…

4) Lust: is the Chief Excutive Officer’s failure to dig deep into the work while lusting for the perks and the admittedly heady compensation of the office. Failure to see things as they are by digging deep into the datastream of the company. Failure of the CEOs suffering from this cardinal sin of lust to access equitably all the employees and instead getting dazzled by the shinny monkeys out there. Lust is the idiotic failure to focus on what’s important because the CEO only sees the ones he/she cares lustfully about. Those executives in turn fail to see and are not able to check what’s working and what is not, who is working and who is not, and above all else, which way the ship’s compass is pointing at. If you know, by some special instinct – great. But if you can’t check the ship’s compass to find the true North, chances are you are a weather vane going round and round to wherever the wind is blowing you to.

5) Greed is accumulating assets — therefore liabilities and not knowing how to pare down the company to make it fit and healthy. So what do you do? Do you take the necessary steps to find out why something is working or isn’t? With all the data available in business today, smart leaders understand to dig in and analyze it both when things are great and when they’re not so great to keep going forward. Stop accumulating divisions, making M&A deals and acquiring companies, if you cannot digest them and make them work well for you and for the acquiring company. Eventually Your Company will be a target for Takeover. So the lesson here is for the company to stay lean, mean, and hungry. This allows you to repeat winning formulas, and understand the downfalls of your organization so that you can lead to improvement. This includes staff, resources, money ideas and all the combinations therein. It alos makes you a less “juicy” target for acquiring predators. And please don’t be naive enough to think you’re an organization with no downfalls and your culture is better than the acquiring or acquired company.

6) Envy is all about wasting money. I particularly see this in startups without a well defined product or a path to monetization, but with a couple of VC commitments and an Angel round under their belt. The moment they hit the cash machine that the VC term sheet represents for them — they go nuts. Parties and a boat type car are the first draw expenses these Startuppers are famous for. And they follow with a down payment on a chateau style house if they can help it. They envy the perks that Google offers to it’s employees and they start offering massages from Thai girls in the office when all they have is a couple of months of burn-rate to get them through. Especially after said startups close funding, and go from bootstrapping and skateboarding to the office, to buying expensive cars for the founders on credit, I walk away from them immediately. Although, I’ve also seen plenty of it in large enterprises where checks and balances get more difficult to track through multiple layers of spending. It’s always the special sickness of “Envy” that causes founders to believe that they are really hot shite and deserve the same perks as those large Corporate CEOs who manage thousands of people. It never fails to surprise me how many startup CEOs, specifically, don’t really track where the money goes, and if the spending is wise in relation to where the company is in its lifecycle.

7) Gluttony: It’s easy to get caught up in the visceral items – marketing, events, sponsorships, branding – cool business cards, hiring a big name PR firm, or sponsoring a popular tech publications’ startup event. These are all things I’ve seen (especially first time) founders get excited about because it brings cache and (temporary) attention, and makes things feel “real.” But are those the items that are going to close customers for you early on? Are they helping you to develop a better product?

And I added a bonus for You who read this far. Here is an old vice from the old and stricter Christian Doctrine because it is necessary to have it in our arsenal of sins to avoid:

8) Avarice: Failure to discern. There’s a difference – a big one – between what a startup should be spending on vs a decade-old company with a solid customer base and revenue stream. Good leaders shoot down the more “fun” ideas in the early stages, and keep their teams focused on what’s going to bring in the right elements to the company – and continue to apply that insight during each of its lifecycle and growth stages.


The other overriding Sin not spelled out in the Christian educational cannon or in the religious arena, is the leader’s Bad Communication skills, and his failure to listen and relate well. This is a Big One.

Leaders listen. Leaders have to listen and to record everything. Leaders have to remember and leaders have to communicate clearly. Too many leaders think they don’t need to communicate clearly because everyone should just know what they want. This doesn’t work in personal relationships, and it sure doesn’t work in employer/employee relationships, either. Be clear, be concise, be consistent.

And repeat.

Don’t always talk in parables, or metaphors, and platitudes. It doesn’t make for Good Leadership. As a matter of fact it doesn’t make sense either. people will be always wondering what you meant Two Thousand freaking years later but next quarter results will surely suffer.

Some say that this is the reason Christ was crucified because He did not make it clear to his disciples that he needed to pray in Peace at the Mount of the Olives. He gave them a nifty metaphor about Officers of Peace, and they misunderstood his command, and sent for the Cops to keep the peace.
The rest is History…

It’s absolutely mind boggling how bad leaders can slow down the progress of a company simply by not speaking clearly their commands and by not listening to their followers. They sink the ship with Mumbo Jumbo… So instead of talking about Second Comings, please make it right the First Time. Capice?

And listen to your people carefully and satisfy the little needs and wants they have early on before they become major grievances. Case in point … Judas Iscariot, who wanted some “dough” and a raise, and Jesus failed on both occasions to deliver some measure of satisfaction to Iscariot, who went elsewhere to sell his “Inside Information”

The Inside Information in the wrong hands was the “kiss of Death” delivered to Jesus Christ, with the known apocalyptic results.

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