A while back, my friend Jeremiah Owyang wrote his perception of the state of social to which I contributed. Decided I’ll add onto my blog as well.
Twitter: dumpster fire but central to US current events, news Facebook: where The Olds who ‘don’t get’ other social networks congregate to get attention, Asia’s LinkedIn, and others have an account for the sole purpose of Messenger (messenger.com via web) Messenger: communication utility (Skype / Hangouts replacement; the Westerner’s WeChat and Weibo — encrypted messaging and P2P payments? Yes please!) LinkedIn: depot of shameless self promoters and what NOT to do cues for teens and millennials professionally networking. I.E., Stay away from descriptors such as, but not limited, to: ‘futurist’, ‘keynote speaker’, ‘innovator’, ‘change agent’, etc., etc., Snapchat: dancing Hot Dog and awesome filters to cross post onto IG IG: branding tool for the non-olds (teens). Lifestyle diary for Millennials (food, beauty, fashion, etc.) Google+: Huh? What’s that??? Telegram: status symbol to show you’re ‘in the know’ about cryptocurrencies. Slack: quickly becoming the new email WhatsApp: where European Android users are LINE: only relevant to Thais and old Japanese people Ding Talk: where Chinese who don’t trust Weibo or WeChat conduct business
Social networks aside, my phone is the place I do the most internetting and boy has my homescreen changed a lot. Take a look:
The three apps on the bottom are apps most used: Twitter, brower, mail.
1. Apple’s mail app has been replaced by Outlook (yes, Microsoft Outlook) because Gmail loads the quickest plus the experience is much better. I can’t believe I’m saying this either but hey — it is what it is.
2. Safari has been replaced by Brave — which I wrote extensively about here.
Despite having 256gigs on my phone, I only have one page of apps. Mainly because I realized long ago I only use a handful on the daily. I also turn off the little red circles because they induce anxiety and helped me wean off my addiction. (Read about that journey here.)
Funny how things change!
Related: Snap Chat should be worried — check out this neat graph I found. 300M daily active users for Instagram stories! Amazing.
Most have now heard of Bitcoin because there is so much coverage of people getting ‘rich’ from Bitcoin. But the more I research, the more I realize: Not that many people know exactly what it is, how it applies to them, and why ‘Bitcoin’ is so valuable.
I put Bitcoin in quotes because Bitcoin only represents a sliver of the possibilities behind the fundamental reason Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency, digital assets, alt coins, and blockchain are so important. That said, disclaimer: If you’re here to learn how to instantly make money from ICOs, this post isn’t for you.
Let me back up a bit.
The rapid growth of the middle-class is the reason I choose to live in SEA but it also should be worrisome to the world for one reason: by 2030, it is projected that 2/3 of the world’s middle class population will be living in Asia.
I use the term Asia broadly, but these countries include, but not limited to: Asia-Pacific (Southeast Asia ie: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei), and of course, China, and India. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
What this implies is if 2/3 of the middle class population is based in Asia, the economic power will start shifting, new problems and solutions for these problems come alive. Or, as we commonly hear: disruption and innovation.
My interest in Bitcoin (or crypotcurrency and blockchain technology) simply started as a curious, technologically savvy person residing in this region, as crypoto is only one of the ‘disruptive’ or ‘innovative’ technologies deriving from quick change. Within the short 4.5 years I’ve moved from the States to ‘Asia’, I’ve seen with my own eyes, massive advances.
What does this mean?
I’ve been obsessed with messaging apps, anything mobile, and SEA — specifically how technology is changing economies in high-growth nations, driving innovation from need, reducing socio-economic inequalities, and the failures of first world nations to keep up. (This sounds like a bunch of jargon but whatever. Deal with it.)
Messaging apps that started as communication utilities are now full-blown ecosystems where billions of micro-transactions from communication (messaging), payments (cashless), to things that make daily life easier (food delivery, share economy, etc.) take place on a daily basis. And this is just the beginning.
In a region where things change on close to a daily basis, conversations about currency are naturally floating about because
according to the World Bank’s Global Financial Inclusion Database, over 2.5B adults in developing economies do not own bank accounts
and only 20% of those living in extreme poverty own bank accounts
And by 2020, there will be 1 billion new smartphone subscribers only in SEA. (source)
With the mobile penetration changes, our daily lives are impacted, as daily necessities are physically met through mobile technology. If you live in a first world, it may be hard to imagine a world where getting from point A to point B can take an entire day, since city infrastructures in developing nations aren’t designed to handle traffic and congestion. Imagine taking a day off to run simple errands, such as shopping, banking, and paying bills. Now, imagine not having a bank account because you can’t afford to pay banking fees or you don’t have a valid I.D., or worse: the nearest bank to your home requires a day trip.
In regions with pain points such as the above, the notion of currency that doesn’t require the middleman (banks) is the reason investors, bankers, and smart people in fin-tech find Bitcoin so alluring.
Put it this way: If we can make free calls between San Francisco and Beijing, why do we have to pay to transfer money from San Francisco to Beijing? If it takes all day to take out cash from my bank account, why won’t I leave it in a safe under my bed unless there’s a better option? In a world where middlemen can potentially take six paychecks worth of fees, why wouldn’t I find a way to cut out the middleman and directly transact?
These are only a few problems ‘Bitcoin’ or more accurately, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology can solve.
Do note, these are examples in high-growth nations to simply illustrate the promise of cryptocurrency, but there are a ton of first-world scenarios where the blockchain can innovate and disrupt that I’m looking to share in the upcoming months.
In the meantime, hope this post clarified what the fuss about Bitcoin is about.
Stay tuned for Part II: An Explanation of Blockchain for Non-Tech People
Edit: published! You can read it here.
People who live outside of Japan find it hard to believe when I tell them: YES, Japanese people still use flip-phones. And YES, they reside in Tokyo.
Flip-phone sightings happen daily but since I get asked the same questions a lot, I finally took photographic evidence.
This particular young gentleman was in his late to early 30’s, working on his Macbook Pro. He caught my eye because his Pro was up and running with connection, owned an iPhone (see photographic proof *points below)…
…yet he chose to e-mail from his dinosaur flip-phone.
I wish I was slick enough to take photos of him navigating the iPhone… he was like a 65 year old man using an iPad for the first time. He held his iPhone upwards, tightly gripped with his left hand. And he was typing with one finger — his right pointer finger to be precise — but the gestures OMG. He was basically stabbing the iPhone screen, tapping the screen so hard he had to grip with his left harder and harder. So exhausting to watch… and his poor, poor phone. I almost wanted to place him under Citizen’s Arrest for device abuse.
Anyway — this is only one of the many reasons I choose to be in Asia. Mobile habits and usage are similar to those of the US in 2007-08ish when consumer Internet just started getting disrupted.
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.
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.
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.
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.