The Magic of Silicon Valley

“The magic of Silicon Valley is the shared belief system that some will succeed. Carry the flame.” – Dave McClure

I wrote a guest post for The Next Web the other day and thought I’d share here, too. I love that quote by Dave McClure, who is such an inspiration to those outside of the Valley. He is one of, if not the only VC who actually takes the time to jump on a plane and show-up to tech ecosystems around the planet. His efforts are tireless and what he is doing for the global entrepreneurial community is something nobody can put a price on.

For those living in the US, it may be hard to picture, but a majority of the world is a bit behind when it comes to technology and startup cultures. Just imagine the way Silicon Valley was around 2005-06ish — the ripples of the second dot com boom were just forming. Facebook and Twitter were just starting out. Entrepreneurs were building products and webapps — software — because the smartphone penetration would come a year or two after that. There was activity, but the space wasn’t as crowded as it is today. VCs and founders, influential tech bloggers and reporters were more accessible… that’s how I see a lot of regions right now, in 2014.

APAC, especially Southeast Asia, is really exciting right now. And Dave McClure is ON IT. If you’ve never heard him talk abroad, you should YouTube it. He repeats over and over how Silicon Valley is a spirit. A confidence. A mindset.  A belief… and continues to motivate entrepreneurs around the globe. I really wish other high profile VCs took the time to do what he does, to. Not just for themselves (investing) but for technological advancement around the world.

Anyway. My TNW post is here: “Startup founders in Southeast Asia: it’s time to step up
The Red Herring also picked it up too: “Southeast Asia tech sees boost from emerging nations

Global Mobile Payment Market

To further reinforce the previous post on the mobile payment market, I came across a BI deck on the The Future of Mobile Payments.

1. Might be difficult for people in developed nations to digest, but in emerging nations, billions of people don’t have access to banks.  Southeast Asia is leading the pack:

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2. Global share of payment opportunities in these emerging markets are beyond ridiculous. YoY of MENA is the steadiest, while Southeast Asia and Latin America are predicted to steadily grow as well (granted, these numbers seem to be pulled from Cap Gemini — would be interesting to see Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and GS’ predictions)
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3. And of course, global numbers of mobiles — billions of handsets, most still feature (flip phones or the ancient Nokias). What this means, is, citizens of emerging markets are reliant on capabilities away from smartphone apps we in developed markets are used to. Ex: M-Pesa is the first that comes to mind. Their major market share is Kenya, Tanzania and they are increasing efforts into Middle East (Afghanistan, South Africa, India and Eastern Europe, respectively).

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Neat tid-bits I’m digesting with a grain of salt. The market can rapidly change, especially with the amount of funding going into Bitcoin ventures, the payment sector in developed nations is unpredictable. The question lies, would the trend trickle over to emerging markets? Distribution of wealth amongst emerging markets is also a factor (ex: even if Indonesia has highest GDP, population of <1% of the population are the only ones with purchasing power, would it make more sense for a startup to look at Thailand first, where spend per population is more evenly distributed?) And so on and so forth, there are still many, many questions.

Biggest takeaway though is how Southeast Asia is still up for grabs for payments. I really want to see young entrepreneurs beat Rocket Internet and SMART’s initiative in Southeast Asia. Exciting time to be in APAC and especially, SEA as technology is still very much in its infancy.

See the entire slide deck on BI’s site here.

Mobile Money

Leaving the US has opened my eyes to a lot of things, especially how the world outside of America operates. Because the iPhone isn’t as adopted in other parts of the world, there are many solutions to make communication between iOS and Android possible — which is why I became so fascinated with chat apps.

Then, I fell into the chat app rabbit hole and became obsessed with learning, using and following the big players outside of the US: WeChat, LINE, Kakao and WhatsApp. Which lead to learning about the different use cases and the reason I keep piping on about how SnapChat, WhatsApp, FB Messenger are not like WeChat, Line and Kakao. I also argue WeChat is in a league of its own. (If you’re interested, my messaging app series is here). Living in Asia, it’s easier to appreciate various ways people and cultures use their mobiles as I am an actual user vs. reading about use cases.

When I visited various Southeast Asian countries with Dave McClure’s Geeks on a Plane tour, my mind was blown. In countries still considered emerging nations ex: Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, the way phones are used are so different. Actually, everything is different. Most mobiles are pre-paid. Mobile internet connection is mostly 3G and the majority of the population still uses flip phones. I even saw old Nokia phones with the green, pixelated screens. Remember those? I was really good at Snake. Reading and researching about mobile, I was aware of the numbers but to actually see how low smartphone penetration actually was, is a moment I will never forget.

The biggest opportunity I see in emerging nations is how technology is solving dual objectives: social problems and monetization. And the biggest opportunity I see is in mobile payments. I’ve said it once and will probably keep repeating, that because WhatsApp has capabilities on flip phones and older phones, their biggest missed opportunity is moving from a communication utility into a full fledged platform.

I really wish I knew more about payments or was passionate about the topic enough to jump into creating a product. But I am, super excited to see who will be the first to solve across SE Asia.

qz really sums it up best:

At the end of April, nine mobile operators with 582 mobile connections across 48 countries in Africa and the Middle East committed to make their mobile money offerings work across their networks. With interoperability comes greater cohesion and opportunity for new services.

And the kicker:

If it’s done right, it could form the foundation of a whole new global financial-services industry. And the US and Europe will be far behind.

Read the entire post here

Y! Japan vs Y! USA

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I walked by my neighborhood e-mobile store today and was shocked to see it turn into Y! mobile.
e-mobile, used to be Japan’s only pre-paid telco… so I Googled and it now looks like Yahoo Japan owns them.

Which makes me wonder: what the hell is Yahoo US doing?

Even if Yahoo can’t be a new telco., there are so many branding exercises like what Yahoo Japan does to embark on vs spending millions — no, billions, acquiring / acquihiring startups… which seems to be Yahoo US’ focus, as they are selling celebrity initiatives like no other.

Ex things they can do:

  • teaming up with cities to turn phone booths into WiFi hotspots
  • collaborating with telcos to put WiFi into public transportation
  • partnerships with franchises to offer free WiFi at local establishments

I mean, I can keep going on. Yahoo should really focus on getting users on board and using their product… and collaborations / partnerships seem the best way in the US, as telco is a nearly impossible market to penetrate.

Realistically, how many users will Katie Couric, America’s morning talk show ‘sweetheart’ get on board??

You are not Late

I came across this Medium post and it has been shared, re-shared, numerous times but it is so good I feel the need to bookmark on this blog as well.

It’s written by Wired‘s founder and Editor at Large, Kevin Kelly.
Reading the whole piece is recommended, but here is the meat:

So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

 

The last 30 years has created a marvelous starting point, a solid platform to build truly great things. However the coolest stuff has not been invented yet — although this new greatness will not be more of the same-same that exists today. It will not be merely “better,” it will different, beyond, and other. But you knew that.

 

What you may not have realized is that today truly is a wide open frontier. It is the best time EVER in human history to begin.

 

You are not late.

 

Especially in 2014, where we live in the age of the Internet, it doesn’t matter where you live or who you or know or what you’ve done in the past. If you build it, and it is good, people will come. Just look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Uber, Box, etc., etc.

Read the whole thing here.

Southeast Asia

Quickly: I joined Dave and Geeks on a Plane in Manila last minute. Justin Hall of GG Ventures best sums up my take away of Manila:

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…which further enforces what I’ve been thinking about since coming back from Singapore and Bangkok. “Is a country’s GDP an accurate indicator of potential when it comes to startups from emerging nations?”

Manila particularly stands out to me, as the community is healthy and enthusiastic. Founders work together, there is a pay it forward type culture I haven’t seen elsewhere. This type of camaraderie is reminiscent of Silicon Valley around 2006-07ish, before the startup ecosystem blew-up.

Potential capital is of course, first and foremost the thing investors look at. But as someone who believes in the power of mentorship and how entrepreneurs nurturing other entrepreneurs is one of the main reasons why Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley, GDP shouldn’t be the only thing people focus on when it comes to building products. This is why to me, the Philippines is the country I am the most excited about in Southeast Asia.

Either which way, now is the best time to be in Southeast Asia, as the ecosystem is still in its infancy.

Added: just came across the blog of Oliver Segovia, founder of an eCommerce company AVA.
Aside from building a great platform, turns out he is an author of several books and blogs as well. He has an essay on the Philippines’ ecosystem and his vision of the innovation economy there. If you are the slightest bit interested in SEA, this insightful piece lays out the Philippines: “A Vision for the Philippines’ Innovation Economy, & a 4-Point Plan to Achieve It (and why it does NOT include Venture Capital)

Example Mindset of a Sexist Society

It’s bad manners to put someone on blast but this is just too much.
Over on Facebook, there is a discussion going on about Japanese politics, our Prime Minister Abe and this feminist movement he is attempting to push. One of the commenters was so far out there, I just had to document.

Take a look:

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This part is the most peculiar:

Why women would desire to enter the rat race of capitalism is beyond me, but many men are also duped by the compulsion to maximize filthy lucre as their narrowly conceived contribution to society.

So, as far as I’m concerned, Japanese society is not hurting for its unwillingness to put women in the front lines.

Wow. Just… wow.

This is the type of mindset sexism breeds. Until moving to Japan, I had no idea. I am so fortunate to have been raised in the US, where this type of thinking and ignorance are rare.

This is also the reason it is so important to keep fighting for equality and diversity, no matter gender or race.

Absolutely incredible. And frankly, a bit sad. No wonder this guy chooses to live in Japan. God.
Note to self. Companies to avoid:

 

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This was my Tweet in response to the article by the way:

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…and for a more personal experience, you can read on here.