Friday, March 28, 2008

Management-, Children's-, and Self Help Books

When I am not entirely happy at my work, I tend to go shopping, more specifically I will buy books for my children, M, friends and myself. In that order. Today I bought books for at least 250 Euro.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"There is a saying, creativity starts when you take a zero off the budget."
(Sent to me by a Dow Jones VP who just left the company.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Christian Salez CEO of Delvaux

Excitement. I just heard that Christain Salez became the new CEO of Delvaux, the luxury leather brand my mother and father regularly refer to as one of their dream brands. My father speaks about buying a Jaguar for years now, but he will never buy one. My mother speaks about my father buying her a Delvaux since last century, but she will never receive any. Products without price tags in the showroom tend to have that effect on 'normal' people.

Salez and I come from the same school. And we had a strange 'affair' in the last year of high school. We both wrote and produced a theater play. He hired Arenberg theater, I hired Elcerlijck. He wrote a French play. I wrote a Flemish play. He wrote a sort of musical. I can't sing. He had a full house, or at least that is what I remember of it. I had a three quarter house. His play was smooth and mature. Mine was experimental -very-. Everybody expected him to end up in the Arts but he became a successful entrepreneur instead. TBWA, Vicindo (bought Artis Historia and terminated it!), Vincotte, Delvaux. He also created a remarkable non profit for sick children in hospitals "Simon and Odil".

(Christian Salez, third from the left)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Europe Unlimited

One of the new sponsors of The WSJE Future Leadership Institute is Europe Unlimited, a Brussels based company bridging SME start ups with venture capital. Today they organized their "Benelux Venture 50" a venture forum where they selected 50 promising companies to present their case to a panel of venture capitalists. It was a good event, a good day, but the day became memorable because of a black suitcase.

At the end of the day Europe Unlimited organized an Award Ceremony. High-growth companies selected from each of the parallel sector review sessions were honored and invited to comment on their key factors of success. While the 9 winners presented themselves I suddenly noticed an abandoned black suitcase against the wall of the auditorium. It was not the suitcase that attracted my attention but the newspaper that was sticking out of one of the side pockets: a folded WSJE!!

After the ceremony I met the owner of the suitcase: Dr. Herbert Koentges, Business Development Director at Medical Device Works NV. It is always awkward to step up to unknown people, but if they carry a WSJE in their suitcase, it creates the perfect excuse to start a conversation with a stranger.

Dr. Herbert Koentges turned out to be an old WSJE subscriber. I had a wonderful conversation with him about the newspaper industry. Just a few elements to highlight the profile of a WSJE subscriber:

Dr. Koentges (ca 55 - 60 years):
- PhD physical chemistry from TU-Berlin
- Involved in Cordis MBO
- Member of start-up teams 3 medtech companies with IPO on Nasdaq
- Private investor in several medtech ventures
- Funded the start up of Medical Device Works NV together with the current CEO.
- Succeeded in landing 3.5 m Euro from venture capitalists mainly through his INSEAD network.

I asked him if WSJE was his first newspaper of choice:
When I asked this he took the folded WSJE copy from his suitcase, rolled it out and....a IHT copy popped up. IHT is his first newspaper of choice. WSJE is number 2. He reads both newspapers every day.

For world events he reads IHT.
For world business he reads WSJE.

Where does he read the newspapers ?
In the morning in his car, they both lay on the passenger seat and every time he has to stop for a red light he reads a part on the cover pages. In the daily traffic jams around Brussels he continues to read parts of the other stories.

About WSJE:
He likes the compact format, the short and precise articles, the view on world business.

About the IHT:
He is a IHT subscriber for 30 years now. In a former post I wrote about the Paris' soul of the IHT, Dr. Koentges actually doesn't like the Paris link too much. It brings him too much fashion he says. He likes the opinion pages of the IHT the most.

About other newspapers:
He would never subscribe to Financial Times, it is too British, and the articles are too long. He says "most of the FT articles are so big, but of so little importance".

Monday, March 17, 2008

France, Paris, Catherine Deneuve and The Da Vinci Code

Sometimes you meet people who have something mythical over them. Today I met T.F. again, a man who once worked for the American Embassy in Brussels. He retired with his wife in Paris. We met at Place Saint Sulpice. Standing at the foot of the fountain he pointed out a nice apartment at 76, Rue Bonaparte, 6th floor. "The apartment of Catherine Deneuve", he whispered. "Once in a while I see her in this neighborhood; she is not very well dressed most of the time."
I will work with Mr. F. the coming months. I am very curious. He has the tel. nr. of Richard Branson in his agenda.

Before leaving Paris I quickly visited Église Saint Sulpice. I knew the church had two things I was interested in. One was the world renowned pipe organ from Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and the other was the gnomon described in The Da Vinci Code. In the church you will find a meridian line of brass running across the floor, ascending in an obelisk. A ray of sun will pass a lens in a south transept window and will move along the brass line.

(Picture: 76, Rue Bonaparte, 6th floor, floor with balconies: Home of Catherine Deneuve)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

With IHT in Paris

It is a bizarre situation when one of your best team members leaves your team to work for the competition. I found myself in this situation when Belgian scientist Davy Drieghe came to work for The Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) as an intern beginning 2004. He grew from a non paid intern to a full time team member and always showed great interest in the publishing business. He left WSJE middle 2005 for an adventurous life in Paris at The Herald International Tribune.

We still keep in contact and every time we see each other we have a clear off the record (the friendship's part) and a clear on the record conversation (the business' part).

Davy invited me to a French “steak tartare”, and he showed me how IHT is in origin and soul a French newspaper. Apparently the Paris IHT staff is convinced that moving IHT out of Paris (for example to parent company New York Times in New York) would be the beginning of the end of the newspaper. Not that this is playing at IHT headquarters (don't want to start a rumor this way!!), Davy just wanted to make a point about the 'soul' of a newspaper. He tried to prove the point by taking me to the unofficial Diana memorial near the Seine. Everybody thinks the statue (a flame) at the tunnel where Princess Diana died was erected to commemorate her life and death. So people will leave flowers and cards at the foot of the statue all the time. The truth is that the flame statue is an IHT statue. It was given by American people to the French to celebrate the centennial of IHT (1887 - 1987). The flame is therefore an exact copy of the flame held by the statue of liberty in New York.

We agreed that a city, especially a city as Paris, could act as an anchor to feed the soul of a newspaper. Which brought me to realize "shutting down Brussels" (as subject of a lot of rumors around WSJE) wouldn't hurt the soul of WSJE at all.

(pictures from left to right: Steak Tartare,
Mr. Davy Drieghe (IHT) at 'Diana' memorial,
IHT centennial plate at so called 'Diana' memorial)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

France, Fontainebleau, INSEAD

I am aiming to visit at least 30 universities or business schools this year, that are part of The Future Leadership Program of The Wall Street Journal Europe. Today I visited INSEAD.

The values of INSEAD:
- Diversity as a source of learning and enrichment
- Independence as a governance principle
- Rigor and relevance in teaching and research
- Closeness to the international business community
- Entrepreneurial spirit

I like companies or institutions which communicate their values or mission in their entrance hall (as INSEAD does). I actually doesn't happen that much. Most companies will put their mission and values on their website, which is a good start, but it misses out on impact when visiting their premises. When I visit companies with a written mission statement in the entrance hall, and I haven't met physically with my counterpart of that company before, I always play a mindgame imagining the person who I am goin to meet based on the written mission statement on the wall.

INSEAD inside.

When wandering around the INSEAD campus we saw a funny "The Path to Cubicle Heaven" sign.

I googled Insead's correct address and stumbled upon a blog from an Insead MBA student, that upset my evening. The blog starts in 2003, the year the student started her MBA at INSEAD ( and sadly turns into a blog about the student getting cancer ( Reading her blog is a terrible exercise in putting life into perspective.

The first post on her INSEAD MBA BLOG -she calls herself "Finance Monkey"- , dated November 24, 2003, was actually a joke:
A survey company decided to do a world survey on a very important issue. The question was the following: ”What is your opinion on lack of food in the rest of the world?”
The survey was a total disaster as the question was not properly formulated. Too many words were ambiguous:
- In Africa, people did not know what food was.
- In Western Europe, people did not know what lacking something meant.
- In Eastern Europe, people did not know what an opinion was.
- In the United States, people did not know what the rest of the world was.

One of her last posts in 2007 describes how she founded a non-profit to help beat her disease ( She also refers to her INSEAD alumni network to help her translate her blogs in different languages.
Hi everyone -Sorry for the delay in posting an update. I am actually maintaining a private blog and it took up a lot of my time. I am still in treatment and still chatting with a bunch of doctors, fighting off the nasty Alien but I have some news. I also founded a non-profit to help with sarcoma research since it currently gets less than 1% of funds available for cancer research. Still very early stages but it looks promising!

Science + Industry = Sciendustry

The Future Leadership Program of The Wall Street Journal Europe contains now 165 top universities and business schools or 180 campuses. It is by far the newspaper with the strongest campus penetration in Europe. To create extra value on top of the physical distribution of our newspaper into universities, I created The WSJE Future Leadership Institute.

The WSJE Future Leadership Institute is a virtual institute that acts as a bridge between university and industry. More and more I see and experience the differences between the world of science and the world of industry. The difference between both worlds is primarily based on different rewarding systems. He who wants to score in the universitary world has to produce articles, he who wants to score in the industry has to sell products.

It is clear that there is a growing industry to be found on the border of university (science) and industry, bridging both worlds. It is the playing field of the "Sciendustry". (To my surprise the domainname was still for sale, so I quickly cornered the term :-)

More about the "Sciendustry" in posts to follow.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Busy Day on the Networking Front

I attended the "10+2" Security Filing Seminar from De Lloyd in Antwerp. A seminar I highlighted earlier in my daily educational box (The WSJE Future Leadership Institute) on the back page of The Wall Street Journal Europe. Although I am not an expert in customs policies, the speech of Carey T. Davies, attache from the US Customs and Border Protection, US Department of Homeland Security, was very explanatory. He claimed that 9/11 was bad, but it could have been worse if the terrorist attacks had been targeting the shipping lines between the US and the world. That probably would have led to standstill of the import and export between the US and the world, which would have led to a worldwide recession. The fear for this kind of terror has triggered severe security measurements and legislation which is now beginning to be seen on the field. The new measurements to scan every container entering the US by 2012 were met with extreme opposition from all over the world.

From Antwerp to Brussels to attend a seminar on the topic: "Russia after the elections - analyses and perspectives". I also highlighted this seminar in The Wall Street Journal Europe. Very interesting speakers. The event was co-organized by a powerful female Belgian consultant living in Wiesbaden who recently created "", specialised in Russland-Ukraine-Belarus and Kasachstan. The event itself was hosted by the "Representation of the State of Hessen to the European Union". I must say I have never seen such quality food and customer care at a seminar (there was vegetable soup !!). When Germans do something, they tend to do it good. It is not a myth.