LINE 101

TC just reported that LINE’s revenues have doubled YoY to $192m USD in Q3 2014. And just like that, LINE is back in the news again.

Since I seem to repeat the same answers to the same questions about LINE over and over, here is what I wrote in 2013 for TNW. The piece is about messaging apps but I  go over all the basics of LINE. From history to adoption, features, business model, etc., this should cover any and all questions so it’s really, really, really long.

Enjoy — and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.


 

Line’s rise in Japan

Take the Line story, for example. Line, wasn’t an overnight success and there is good reason for that. Line’s biggest marketshare is in Japan. Japan’s smartphone market really began growing in 2011 — some four years after the US — and analysts have found a near-150 percent rise in smartphone adoption between 2011 and 2013.

Of the 127 million people in Japan, smartphone ownership finally passed 50 million users in August, but things are developing rapidly. Japan overtook the US as the biggest spenders on apps only this week, and the market is potentially hugely lucrative for makers of popular apps.

idc japan 520x279 Silicon Valley, you are tardy to the messaging app party

This market shift also affected Japan’s text-based communication.

Text-based communication in Japan is very different from the US and other parts of the world. Japanese telecoms have advanced emailing systems, where carrier-issued email addresses are attached to every mobile number. The email system functionally operates like SMS: simple, free and unlimited. SMS in Japan is charged per text, so before mass market smartphone adoption, text communication was done by keitai meru (cell phone mail).

With the rise of smartphones, apps quickly became popular. As users got used to beautiful, gesture-based UIs, text-based cell phone email no longer fulfilled their needs. That’s when Line started gaining serious traction. People go where their friends are and Line happened to be in the right place, at the right time.

Line changed Japanese mobile communication.

And it’s easy to see why people quickly adopted Line. An Internet connection gives users free unlimited voice calls, unlimited free messaging, unlimited instant photo sharing, group chats and video communication. The interface is cute and Line is very easy to use, but, most importantly, it offered a solution to the ‘pay for all and everything’ Japanese telecom model — and Line disrupted the Japanese mobile industry.

line 300m 730x588 Silicon Valley, you are tardy to the messaging app party

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Slack is Killing Email

Everyone. Hates. Email.

I am in awe of people like Ron Conway, who responds in less than two minutes. Marc Andreessen, who responds in less than five.  Eric Schmidt even has guidelines for productive email behaviors. I discovered a workflow to manage email long ago and even argue email is a success benchmark.

Does this mean I like email? No. I doubt Ron Conway, Marc Andreessen, and Eric Schmidt like email too. They simply work with what they have and probably open to alternative methods of communication — case in point, Andreessen-Horowitz is an investor in Slack.

So why am I so excited Slack? Well, I’m not going to lie. The first time I used Slack I wrote it off as another collaboration tool. And I’ve used them all. Google (docs, Hangouts, talk, etc.), Basecamp, Yammer, Dropbox, even Microsoft Office Comminicator <– LOL.

Basecamp is a great project management tool and serves its purpose functioning like a fancy To-Do list. But the interface is a tad outdated where every new subject, To-Do is a new thread, and gets messy really fast. Project managers need to spend time keeping everything clean and organized.

Google products are great for real-time collaboration. Docs, spreadsheets, etc. But again, it’s hard to keep track of everything and keep documents organized. It’s also not built for collaboration and communication.

Internal chat services like Yammer, have been more of a distraction then a productivity tool. I have a theory it’s because Yammer positioned themselves as ‘an enterprise social network’ vs a utility. I even worked at a company where they shut Yammer down because it was such a distraction.

Enter Slack.

The user experience alone makes it stand out from the crowd. This is a screen shot from one of the projects I’m working on — a lot of it is pixelated out for obvious reasons but I hope you can get the gist of it.

slack

Projects are organized as channels and channels function like a chat room and newsfeed in one.

Files can be easily uploaded or pasted, locally or from a third party service. Each file is like another thread, so you can interact with it and the main feed doesn’t turn into a mess.

slack2

Their search is on a whole ‘nother level… Slack searches within other services like Dropbox, Google Docs, or any other third party services you connect Slack to and the technical elements are on par with Google search… I can go on and on praising the outstanding features and functions.

But what catapults Slack into a league of its own is cross-device functionality. Slack doesn’t seem to be built ‘mobile first’ or ‘desktop first’ but just a product built to work the same whether you’re on your phone, computer, tablet, etc. I’ve procrastinated responding to Basecamp or Google Doc notifications because it’s such a hassle from my phone. Slack, I respond right away because it’s really *that* seamless. It’s so seamless, it’s reminiscent of SMS or chat apps. (Sidenote: I’ve mentioned several times, since moving to Asia, chat apps have significantly reduced email)

Then, there’s the transparency factor. It’s a shame ‘transparency’ is now a buzzword, but it became a buzzword for good reason. When working with other people, miscommunication is the biggest reason for disappointments. Setting and managing expectations, productivity, execution, delivering, etc., everything ties into communication. When there is a constant stream of conversation that is easily searchable, accessible, and every communication happens in one place, it prevents miscommunication and empowers people to well, get shit done. A fully searchable company brain is invaluable.

Slack is killing email. And for the life of me, don’t get why more people aren’t talking about it. Or better yet, using it.

Say No to Bullshit: Hustle Lessons from Anthony Bourdain

TL;DR

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Long version:

Anthony Bourdain has a foul mouth, likely a drunk, and stirs controversy. But you cannot deny, the man has legit entrepreneurial game. He’s written best selling books. Hosted some pretty damn good shows, and now a household name.

Maybe I can relate to him more as I’ve worked in the food industry. My very first job was as a waitress in a sushi joint — typical — then moved on to bartending. Working in food is where I picked up a lot of hustling skills that consistently help me in my non-food industry life. In food, it’s about knowing your capabilities and ceasing opportunities. When your salary is minimum wage and you depend on tips, there is no such thing as ‘luck’ — you create your own luck. Not because you want to, but because you have to make the most out of situations in order to make ends meet.

Any business owner, founder, aspiring entrepreneur, and even individuals looking to climb the corporate ladder can learn a thing or two from successful people who have ‘made it’, in an industry as cut throat as food. And Bourdain lays it out best in this Men’s Journal interview.

On actions vs words

“I quickly came to understand that there are two types of people in this world: There are the type of people who are going to live up to what they said they were going to do yesterday, and then there are people who are full of shit. And that’s all you really need to know.”

Takeaway: When it comes down to it there are those who walk the walk and those who talk the talk. Key is recognizing the difference quickly and cutting out the bullshitters. It saves lots of time, effort, money, and feelings. Yes feelings. Let’s be real. It sucks being let down or disappointed.

On networking

“In a world full of bullshit, when you need something as badly as drugs, your bullshit detector gets pretty acute. Can I trust this guy with money? Is this guy’s package going to be all he says it was?”

Takeaway: Imagine every conversation like a beautiful presentation. If you think about it, 99% of presentations that stick with us have filler slides — you know, the slides that seem to have no purpose except to impress the audience with inspirational quotes in pretty font faces, compelling charts with repetitive factiods or some unrelated slide with cute baby animals or a funny meme photo, etc., etc., — you get the picture right? When stripping away filler slides and concentrate on the objective of the deck, the essence is 1% — if that. On decks, it’s okay. Presentations are supposed to awe the crowd and leave impressions.

I look at conversations with people we meet for the first time like Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentations. People paint the best pictures of themselves. It starts from presentation — attire, mannerisms — to online personas to what they talk about. Ignore 99% of the superficial stuff and listen to what they say.

Bourdain nails it with two questions to ask yourself when meeting new people: is the other person all he says he is? And can I trust this guy with money?

Words that come out of people’s mouths and first impressions can charm and impress. But life is way too short to deal with bullshitters who simply want to look good to other people for whatever reasons they may have. Do you really think people who spend all their energy looking good to others can add value to your life? Sure they may be fun but they most certainly don’t help you make money, and frankly, distract you from reaching your goals. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve wasted a great deal of time being burned by people who seemed this way and that way, promised all kinds of stuff but were just full of shit.

Find your own questions that help identify if someone is really worth your time and can help reach your bottomline.

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Internet Power Balance Shift to Asia

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The WSJ had a nice piece breaking down the mega internet companies of the world — of course US leads the pack but Asian companies aren’t doing so shabby either. China is of course leading the ‘Asia’ pack due to sheer population volume. Seriously, file that under no shit Sherlock.

But there were some fun factoids:

  • 45% of the world’s nearly 3 billion internet users are in Asia
  • WeChat (owned by Tencent) has about 440m users
  • Tencent’s profit margin in the second quarter was 32%, compared with 27% at Facebook and 21% at Google.
  • Tencent’s stock-market value is $148 billion, compared with Facebook’s $194 billion.
  • LINE (Japanese messaging app) had revenue of $323 million, 16 times the estimated revenue of WhatsApp.

…separately, it’s really funny how ‘tech journalists’ don’t seem to understand the products they are writing about. This particular author, said WeChat is WhatsApp’s rival. No. No. No. I can not say this enough times: they are two very different products. WhatsApp is a communication utility – a tool. WeChat is a full fledged platform, an ecosystem.

The author also calls LINE stickers ‘cutesy emoticons’ — which further highlights the lack of understanding of mobile behavior in Asia even after NYT wrote about it!! (Pretty embarrassing).

Oh well. I guess that’s why there is a need for someone like me or Jon Russell of TNW and a dedicated publication like TIA to pipe on about this region.

Only a few reasons I love emerging markets

During conversations with one of my favorite VCs and separately, with one of my favorite tech bloggers, services I never heard of were brought up. I also learned a few things I’m just going to leave here — more like a note to self — before I forget.

Old age, the struggle is real.


 

Opera still has 300M MUAs.
Opera Mini (the mobile browser
– Indian users of the Opera Mini mobile browsers used 75% less mobile data in the first half of the year
– is compatible with over 3,000 mobile devices, dumb phones and smartphones
-works on basic Java to the latest Android and iOS platforms

Wow – who knew. It’s such a perfect browser for emerging nations where cost and access are barriers source


 

Random thought: I wish I was passionate about logistics. So much money and room for disruption there. Imagine “between x and y is z” (where x, y = time and z = service ex: delivery, internet, cable, food, etc) is non existent. Time is precise. Or in plain English, parcels will be dropped off and service rendered at exact times.

The solution would involve an algo that calculates most cost efficient delivery radius in a way that’s never been done before. Combine that with a notification app like Yo, that’s a billion dollar business right there. And I believe the solution will come out of Asia.


 

Binu Screenshot_9_15_14_9_26_PM

Which reminded me of Frontline SMS Screenshot_9_15_14_9_28_PM

 

Google APAC has WiFi enabled rickshaws to help people go online

*Pardon the lazy post

Why Aren’t More Tech Journalists Talking About This? #Apple

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…this was my stance after the Apple announcements of iPhone 6, 6+, and the watch but all jokes aside, there is good reason Apple is the most valuable brand on the planet and simply “mind-blowing“.

Personally, the Watch does nothing for me. I would never own one. The app screen (points below)

apple-watch_custom-6f232f81d85587d089f8eeee63219236ca239b23-s40-c85

triggers my trypophobia (yes, trypophobia is real) and the design is just outdated — totally 80s.

However, what Apple did with the watch, as well as all the iPhones after the 4, is create a problem then solved the problem for us. First world problem-ing in the highest order. Or in scientific terms: they tap into the last triangle of Maslo’s Hierarchy of Needs, by making us need things we didn’t know we needed.

This deep understanding of human behavior and finding ways to hook people with design and hardware is something very few companies can achieve. Apple consistently creates problems then seamlessly and elegantly solves them for us — truly, one of the most innovative companies of our time.

People say now, things like “why do we need payments on our wrists, when we can do them on our phones?” Or, “why would we need payments on our phones and wrists?” I say, just wait – people will start getting lazier because they’ll adopt to the convenience of phone functionalities on body parts (wearables) and soon, it’ll be the norm.

Think about it: everything about technology is creating and solving more convenient ways of living. Telephones, email, computers, laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, tablets… and the next: wearables.

With the Apple Watch, Apple is now giving us 1) predicted text so we don’t have to type. 2) a way to transact without the extra effort of pulling out our phones. 3) a new type of push-pull notification system in a way that no other product or software does.

Which to me, is the most exciting part of the Apple announcement – all personal thoughts about style aside. It’s a bit peculiar to me how a lot more people aren’t excited about that vs the new and shiny hardware.

Someone Disrupt Japan Please

I randomly watch this Call Me Maybe Chatroulette video when I recall it, because it never fails to make me laugh.

Today I needed to escape from all the Apple news and was happily watching it, dancing away, and noticed on the recommendation side tab, another Call Me Maybe parody from a super popular Japanese pop idol, Rola.

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That’s Rola – she’s cute, pretty, and super funny. I’m a fan. So I clicked on the video of her lip synching to ‘Call Me Maybe’ and laughed out loud. Universal Music Japan (her label I guess), put the video up. I mean, it’s a lip synching video, what the hell, why couldn’t she put it up herself?

There are so many other ‘Call Me Maybe’ lip synching renditions by famous people like the Bieber+Selena Gomez+Ashley Tinsdale or the one by The Roots and Fallon — uploaded on YouTube not by their labels.

Japanese companies strong hold content so much, there are close to zero streaming services. Almost the entire population has no idea what Spotify, Netflix, or Hulu are. It’s really quite sad.

Looking forward to the day all this changes. Perhaps in another 10-15 years LOL
Oh, Japan.