State of Social and Internet 2017

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:

img_6567

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 Apple’s mail app has been replaced by Outlook (yes, Microsoft Outlook) because Gmail loads the quickest plus the experience is much better.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 Safari has been replaced by Brave — which I wrote extensively about here.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.

img_6562

Crypto News for The Rest of Us

Big week in cryptocurrencies, decided to do a round-up for non-technical people. Enjoy.

ICOs and Regulations

Just in 2017, ICOs have raised $2.7B and 18 have raised more than $100M, while 120 have raised up to $50M. In the past five months, ICOs have raised more than $350M each. To put that in context, ICOs raised 32% as much as Series A startups in the last quarter alone. link

ICOs are hot, hot, hot, but … what about regulations?

During Singapore’s FinTech Festival, the Singapore government revealed their new ICO regulations. Unlike China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and South Korea that outright banned ICOs, Singapore’s central bank: the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) published a document to clarify SG’s ICO standards. 12

Meanwhile Japan, the US and EU are still in ‘discussion’ mode with the SEC issuing warnings, sending alarm bells to those looking to jump on the ICO train. 12 (There was even a discussion of ICO purchases being entitled to a refund by law? America is so adorable.)

Reading through the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s 13 page document, the terms are a bit fluffy and serves more as a guide than regulations of what specifically defines as an ICO. Lots of loopholes and workarounds are still possible but the report’s objective is to prevent scams and “combating money laundering and terrorism financing”. (Sure, good luck with that. But how about understanding the technology first, before layering rules?)

What you need to know about SG’s definitions of when ICOs are or aren’t securities:

  • ICO trading platforms require vetting and a license issued by MAS
  • some digital currency issued during ICO campaigns (or what are called ‘shit coins’ — alt coins aside from the well known ones like Bitcoin BTC, Bitcoin Cash BTH, Ethereum ETH — that are super minor) may possess characteristics of ‘normal’ currency and must publish a regulation-compliant investment prospectus and register it with the central bank.
  • there are exceptions to the rule including: if the ICO does not exceed S$5M within a 12 month period, offer is made to institutional investors only, and the offer is made to accredited investors under SG’s prescribed investor class.

These discussions of regulations by the big guys is an indicator of normalizing cryptocurrency, but I can’t help but think of how the promise of cryptocurrency are how 1. transactions happen collaboratively 2. secure because they are backed by technology and 3. without central points telling people what to do and how to do it (and without all the fees).

In other crypto news:

Notable Partnerships, Movements in Regulatory Systems, Alliances

  • AMEX announces partnership with Ripple, a crypto payment’s platform
  • MasterCard finally jumps on the blockchain payment bandwagon filing a patent in the U.S. for their platform link
  • KPMG joins the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance — a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association. link
  • 20 global banks and financial institutions join Singapore and Hong Kong’s blockchain based network — no clear indicators of the implications yet link

Products and Services

  • VISA in partnership with the blockchain startup Chain, rolled out B2B blockchain payments. VISA is already partnered with U.S.-based Commerce Bank, South Korea’s Shinhan Bank, the Union Bank of Philippines and the United Overseas Bank, based in Singapore. link
  • Square’s Cash app is testing a feature to buy and sell bitcoin (only for U.S. users) link

Reports for PowerPoints

  • Deloitte scoured GitHub and published a report from the data so we don’t have to. The report is long and nerdy but there are some handy charts on there in case any of you MBAs need it for a PowerPoint 🤗 Find the report here.

PS: I’m playing around with a newsletter, not ready to announce yet but you can sign up here: https://tinyletter.com/highinnovationAny and all feedback, questions, and thoughts are welcome — simply reply to the newsletter or tweet me. Big shout-out to Jeff H., Jon Russell,Daryl S., and Dave McClure for invaluable insights and help.

ICO: Enough is Enough

Emergency. Emergency. We interrupt the crypto primer series for a special post on ICOs.

I decided to write intros to crypto, starting with “Why Bitcoin is Important” and “An Explanation of Blockchain for Non-Technical People” because I believe in the technology but more so, think when it’s normalized, it can change the world.

As I was drafting my next post on Smart Contracts and the Promise of Ethereum, I got ping’d for the thousandth time with a barrage of questions about Bitcoin and ICOs.

I am so sick and tired of repeating the cookie cutter response I have memorized, I decided to write it.

The explanation usually goes like this:

Hey. Remember the ICO Paris Hilton endorsed? Well it turns out, the company is run by a piece of shit who kicked the crap out of his girlfriend 117 times and was sentenced to a year in jail. He is also fighting four lawsuits and super radioactive in the tech community, no one wants anything to do with him. Paris Hilton found out what she was backing after she promoted him and distanced herself right away. Do you want to be known as a person who was duped like Paris Hilton?

Okay, okay, so Paris Hilton may be as smart as a box of rocks.

What about DJ Khaled’s endorsement? Remember that? Turns out, the founders of that ICO were accused of multiple charges of fraud, have outstanding bills, payments, and what have you. Just seriously not so… straight peeps and they recently resigned. You wanna end up like Khaled?

I’m sorry — well not really — but right now, you (you = my friend, acquaintance, etc.) are as knowledgable about ICOs as Paris Hilton and DJ Khaled.

So if you don’t know who and what you’re investing in, most ICOs are sketch level fucking bajillion and it goes without saying: You’re better off staying far, far, away until you understand what ICOs are.

Usually, the frankness wakes people up but I find myself getting more and more impatient when explaining ICOs. So I’m doing what every nerd does: Blog about it. (And to anyone I may have offended or angered, I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. Really.)

Long legit explanation:

In short, an ICO (initial coin offering) is like a project on Kickstart built on the blockchain where a product or service is backed by the community versus investors. An ICO is not like an IPO, since ICOs are not regulated and due diligence best practices change rapidly since there isn’t an entity or regulatory party telling entrepreneurs what to do and how to do it.

Loose outline of how a company/startup typically launches an ICO

  1. publish a comprehensive white paper on what they are offering, how it will work, how they will make money, why people who back the project should invest, and the background of the founding team.
  2. find an ICO platform to launch the campaign
  3. tap into a network of high profile or influential figures, get them to back your project, and if you’re lucky, they will market when the general public can put money into backing the project
  4. market, market, market. Founders start Slack and Telegram groups to engage the community of potential backers. They publish posts on blogs and Medium. And of course, social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter, et al.

Now that we covered the basics of ICOs, some data points.

While looking through ICO stat sites like 1, 2, 3, I came across this post (in Japanese). This random guy in Japan plugged in all the numbers into an Excel so I didn’t have to, which I’m translating into English so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome.)

This guy took a sample of 48 ICOs with the following conditions:

  • ICO launched between 2014–2017 and listed on ICO stat sites
  • projects that didn’t use an ICO platform since data of products launched on platforms aren’t as easily trackable
  • projects that don’t require software or hardware development

Of the 48, he found projects to be bucketed in four categories:

  1. working product: at the time of the ICO there is a product and users
  2. beta: βversion of product is released; no users
  3. alpha: only a pro-type, not ready for beta release
  4. no product: just a white paper and a community, nothing to show (not even a prototype. Yikes.)

He lists several findings (YoY product delivery comparison, amounts raised, thoughts on why ICO products can not be delivered on time, etc.) but the one finding that raised the alarm bells was this one.

Of the 48 ICOs

Working product: 3 (6.25%)

Beta product: 7 (14.58%)

Alpha product: 11 (22.92%)

No product: 27 (56.25%)

Uhhhhhhhhhhh. 56.3% don’t have product on delivery? That’s insane. Where is the KickFailure equivalent site of ICOs? And I wonder if someone is keeping track of these people who fail to deliver. Just because ICOs aren’t regulated, it doesn’t mean individuals shouldn’t be held accountable.

Even more worrisome, is looking at the track record and seeing evidence such as this:

15 ICOs in a day and a half? What. The. Fuck.

Now I am a believer of blockchain. I champion Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, and a few others I’m closely monitoring. I am a fan of ICOs in theory and in time, cautiously optimistic that ICOs will help move crypto forward. But right now? Hedge your bets elsewhere; there are plenty of investment opportunities in cryptocurrency once you understand the basics.

A very rich man once said:

Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

That rich man is Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett is worth $80B USD so I think he knows what he’s talking about so for God’s sake, before talking about investing in an ICO or buying Bitcoin: please, please, please educate yourselves.

Thank you for reading this very long rant. The End.

An Explanation of Blockchain For Non-Technical People

Note: If you are looking for ways to get rich quick on ICOs and Bitcoin, this post is not for you.

Now that that’s out of the way, this is the continuation of this post and why Bitcoin and misc. alt-coins, cryptocurrencies or digital assets, and blockchain are so important.

Here, I will cover blockchain and why prominent VCs such as Fred Wilson has been writing about it for six years, and why many other firms are co-investing in crypto ventures and how cryptocurrencies are no longer for terrorists, drug lords, human traffickers, and other not so kosher transactions we only see or hear about on the dark corners of the Internet.

I left off the last post with the question: If we can make free calls between Beijing and San Francisco, why do we need to pay to transfer currency between Beijing and San Francisco? I then took it a step further, to ask: In a world where middlemen can potentially take several paychecks worth of fees for an exchange of assets, why wouldn’t I find a way to cut out the middleman and directly transact?

Right now the public is focused on currency built on blockchain technology since it seems as though people are ‘getting rich quickly’ but blockchain is much more than currency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other alt-coins). What blockchain does, is it enables transfers of digital assets (in any form) in a safe, secure, transparent way with no middleman.

blockchain is much more than currency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other alt-coins)

Technologists are excited for the possibilities that instead of a middleman — in any industry from bankers, to real estate agents, suppliers and distributors — individuals and merchants who supply a product or service can directly deal with their customers looking to purchase the product or service offered. This is what is called a P2P (peer-to-peer) network. Decentralized is another term often used but it basically means micro-transactions are not regulated by those we have come to acknowledge as trusted parties to legitimize these exchanges of assets.

A world where everything is regulated is what we are ingrained to believe as ‘trust’. 

We trust banks to handle our money. We trust fund managers to invest our money. We trust real estate agents and brokers when we look to buy or sell property. We trust companies like Amazon and Google to store our personal information and communication. The list goes on and on but in our daily lives, we know that anything we do with these established institutions, our information, money, assets, or what have you, are safe.

But what if there is a way to safely and securely cut out the middlemen, have a new trusted method to transact and save on fees?

What if there is a way to safely and securely cut out the middlemen?

That is what blockchain can do. Bitcoin is just one of the solutions (currency) to the problem of cutting out the middleman (financial institutions). The reason why blockchain is safe and secure, is a bit complex, technical, and potentially boring but important to know in order to understand the value of blockchain technology and the things built on it — like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

The following is a chart I found from a report published here. All tech jargon aside, this is basically the flow of a transaction built on the blockchain:

What this illustrates, is the structure of the blockchain technology we currently cannot see with our two eyes like at a bank or real estate office.

I’m sticking with these two examples in order to keep things simple.

In order for a transaction on the blockchain to be valid, it goes through a process, exactly how a ‘normal’ transaction happens. In traditional validation processes, there are certain things that need to be checked off in order to legitimize any exchange of assets. But instead of one entity (the middleman — whether it’s a bank or real estate firm to follow the examples from above), there are many anonymous people solving complex equations to verify the validity of the asset transfer request. Currently, if we were to transfer money or buy or sell property, a person or people manually call different parties or look through records, forms and contracts are drawn with lawyers, and / or whatever else is required in the verification process for the transactor and transactee required by regulations.

On the blockchain, there is no manual checklist item to ensure a safe and secure exchange of assets, but instead, a process based on math is used for validity. Multiple parties are involved and validation is done in two parts.

How Blockchain works

(this is where it gets a bit nerdy — skip if you wish)

Simply put: There are people who run computers called miners, that receive a request to verify a transaction. These requests are called blocks. If the miner chooses to accept the block, they run the block against a complex computer program (kind of like descrambling government spy level cryptograms).

Once the block is validated, it is passed onto the middleman called a node, to add onto a giant, public ledger (blockchain database). In traditional real life ways, the middleman is usually a person or institution. In the case of blockchain, the middleman who pass the verified transaction data and the valid block data are anonymous and technologically driven within the blockchain process, so payments and fees are unnecessary.

When there are a certain number of blocks verified (multiple miners validating the blocks and nodes adding onto the chain), the transaction is deemed valid and only then, transactional exchanges happen.

Miners are rewarded with Bitcoin for their work. There is no central authority (government, regulatory entities, etc.) overseeing the process but blockchain uses a network of trusted people, with multiple layers of technologies to ensure a fairness in keeping the transaction and all the information stable, safe, and secure. There are also methods put in place to ensure one miner doesn’t have more authority over another, or technologies that makes sure all the miners validating blocks aren’t located in the same geographic area, and so on and so forth.

Do keep in mind, this is embarrassingly simplifying an extremely complex process, and a basic explanation for those looking for a primer on Bitcoin, blockchain, and crypto.

Why did I write this? Because as cryptocurrency and transferring of digital assets become more common place, hopefully these posts will help to understand why these technologies aren’t scary but more so, valuable, disruptive, innovative, and most of all: Exciting!

Next up: Smart contract governance and the promise of Ethereum.

How to Wean Off Phone Addiction

Several people immediately asked how I was able to pry myself away from my phone. Actually the conversations were more or less like this: how in the fuck does someone like you stay unplugged for so long?

It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

For operation Internet detox, I started by reorganizing my homescreen too look like this:

IMG_0265

Social apps have always been strategically placed where they are the easiest to access. I swapped social apps with apps related to the activities I committed to do more: read and write. With help of muscle memory it’s working. I’ve been in the habit of constantly checking Facebook or Instagram and my fingers would touch the icons on the phone without thinking. Now, when my fingers automatically touch the screen where Facebook or Instagram were, Kindle and iBooks launch. In lieu of WhatsApp or LINE, Simplenote and Werdsmith open, prompting me to write.

I still have Facebook, Instagram and a few misc social apps. They’re just tucked into a folder where it takes effort to access. I turned off notifications* for all social sites and scheduled notifications for most messaging apps.

I also told myself to only check Twitter for news — being unplugged shouldn’t allow ignorance. Nuzzel is my favorite news app. Of all the news apps I’ve used, it’s the most solid with delivering articles most interesting to me. I barely need to launch Twitter anymore.

Since I didn’t trust myself, I took it a step further and disabled Wi-Fi in my home. So now my phone can only browse on mobile and if I go over my allotted 4gigs, I pay data overage fees. When money is involved it’s pretty easy to be disciplined.

It’s been less than a month but I barely go on Facebook anymore (just Messenger). Look at Twitter once or twice a day for news. And Instagram only in the morning — if that.

And that is how to wean off phone addiction. If I can do it, anyone can. Anyone.

*Backstory re: notifications: in 2011 I got fed up with notifications. It felt like my phone was constantly pestering me: someone commented on your post! You got a new mention! Email, email, email, respond, respond, respond. Text, text, text.

One day I got so irritated by my needy phone I turned off badges (the little red circle). My phone went from looking like this (left), to like this (right)

(I’ve also always had a one screen only rule: only keep apps I use.)

Turning off notifications made my life better. I was now in charge of when and what to respond to instead of letting my phone control my life. So I am used to having minimally invasive notifications.

Mission Internet Detox

481196_10150984050641495_1884314137_n
Face in phone as always.

 

I have a problem. I am addicted to the Internet.

For over a decade almost every free second has been spent online. When social networks gained momentum, not only was I spending all my free time online, I started making time to go online. Combine that with a constant need to learn new things, it was over: I now had to force myself to go offline. I’ve even resorted to pulling the plug so my laptop dies. Embarrassing, I know.

Continue reading

Internet Power Balance Shift to Asia

P1-BR340_AINTER_G_20140916174816

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.

The Internet Never Forgets

The first week of Sept. 2014, I will always remember as the week a lot of people I value and cherish came to Japan for Startup Asia, Tokyo. The conference was wonderful and I cannot say enough nice things about everyone at Tech in Asia and the people they attracted.

So please don’t get take this the wrong way.

The following post has nothing to do with Startup Asia, Tech in Asia, the people who attended the conference, nor my friends and colleagues. This post does, however, has everything to do with an attendee I unfortunately met.

He was introduced as a friend of a friend and during the first few seconds of our conversation my gut told me something was a bit off about this guy. And so I was short with him and didn’t really engage. Little did I know, my intuition was correct.

This guy introduced himself as Ken Charles, but lo and behold: I found out his real name was Ken Hoinsky. He is known as the “Reddit Pick-up Artist” and wrote a book on how to pick up women.

He was under fire on the internet for certain things he wrote on Reddit and passages from the book.
Ex:

It’s easy enough to believe that Hoinsky did not set out to write a how-to guide on forcing women into sex, but his political and cultural blindspots enabled him to publish advice that instructs men to “continue to try to escalate physically until she makes it genuinely clear that it’s not happening” (defined by Hoinsky as shouting “STOP,” or “GET AWAY FROM ME”) without an ounce of critical self-reflection.

And his project was banned from Kickstarter.

Whatever this guy’s deal is or was, I don’t really care, as I plan to never interact with him again. Lesson here, is that you can change your name. Change locations. Change jobs. But always remember: THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS.

Always think before posting stuff online.

Charts: Global Internet usage

I had to blog this vs tweeting  — it’s just too good not to share.
Take a look:

share-of-population-that-has-never-used-the-internet-2013_chartbuilder

  • 20% of Europeans have never used the Internet.
  • 34% of Italians have never used the Internet — via qz

Granted, there are still 13% of American adults in 2014 don’t use the Internet [1] but these numbers still astound me.

Then there is Asia — and I loathe using ‘Asia’ so loosely because Asia is BIG — but they are the global leader in online growth: 42% APAC vs 27% Europe — Comscore Asia forecast (PDF)

This is also a good opportunity to revisit the scope of technological adoption and revenues coming out of Asia.
Parallel with online growth; the increase of mobile traffic, combined with mobile revenues makes this region, the most interesting when it comes to disruptive technologies + monetization.

ChartOfTheDay_1088_Percentage_of_global_page_views_from_mobile_devices_n

 

Asia includes the following four countries: China, India, Japan and South Korea. Those four countries account for 66% of Asia’s population, 60% of Asia’s mobile connections and over 70% of regional mobile income. Four markets, four countries with four very different ecosystems.

China = population of 1.4 billion people, GDP of 8.2 trillion USD
India = population of 1.2 billion people, GDP of 1.84 trillion USD
South Korea = population of 50M people, GDP of 1.13 trillion USD
Japan = population of 127.6M people, GDP of 5.96 trillion USD

Then, there are the smaller countries with high GDPs and/or high population like: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, etc., etc.

To put that into perspective, the US has a population of 314M people (double Japan) with a GDP of 15.68 trillion USD. Compared to the big four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, India and China), the US has been ahead of the race as far as development, access and economic distribution. This development gap the US has, is significantly wider with India and China than the gap the US has with Japan and South Korea, but the US is still ahead of these four countries.

WSJ just reported China is projected to overtake the US in mobile revenue [2] but as I said here, Japan should be the market to pay attention to, as

  1. smartphone penetration is still low
  2. spend is high — and keeps growing

Looking at global run rates and stats, it’s all about Asia and realistically, which markets and ecosystems one can penetrate.

 

 

 

Why I Love the Internet

Warning: this post has nothing to do Japan, Asia, chat apps, or tech but an ode to the Internet.

There has been a stranger tweeting me with his photos.
Take a look:

Screenshot_5_22_14_2_57_PM

 

And one more for good measure:

Screenshot_5_22_14_2_58_PM

 

I totally get how people might be creeped out by him. I mean, he’s this old guy posing in front of a pile of dirty dishes. Heck, I can’t even tell if all his teeth are in place.

I think he should be celebrated.

This man, let’s call him John, is tweeting photos to random females from all over. I don’t know how he finds them, the women he are tweeting are really, that random (I checked his stream). He is using Twitter as a dating tool.

Looking at these photos of this man I am calling John, I assume he lives in South Carolina. Or far up north in Florida. Maybe Arkansas, or some state in the South in a town with a population of 500.

He lives in a trailer littered with beer cans and there are piles of ashtrays filled with charred cigarette butts — he smokes every cigarette until it reaches the filter. His kitchen counter has no space, covered with heaps of  Wonder Bread, Oscar Mayer bologna, Kraft Singles, and BBQ potato chip wrappers. He has a tv with rabbit ears that only has one channel: FOX.

He works as a dish washer at a truck stop and his apron is stained with maple syrup, ketchup, mustard, mayo. Every night after work, he stops by the bar along Highway 5 to drink a warm beer, served by the 50 year old bartender Barbara.

He owns a Samsung SCH-293874923861723 — a prepaid, throwaway Android with maybe a three hour battery life. 3G connection.

This man John, whose life I can only imagine, has found his way onto twitter. He created an account. Figured out a way to take photos. Then tweet the photos to random women all over the world. And I fucking love it. How can you not?

I love that the Internet gives everyone a voice. Even John from Timbuktunowhere. And this, is only one of the many reasons why I love the Internet and technology so so so much.

It’s really, the little things.
*if you need another reminder, I posted another one a while back here.

Japan App Store Rapid Growth

Startling facts:

  • Japan app store is expanding faster than expected, especially for apps outside the top 3-5.
  • by Mar 2015, a #10 ranked game will earn ¥1.7bn/m, which is the same as #2 earned in Nov 2013

 

State of mobile in Japan:

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 4.13.16 PM

 

 

  • Japan has 10x the USA’s population density, used to spending with carrier (payment) settlement since the 90’s (with iMode)
  • over 30% of households are one-person == spend more on entertainment vs family

Innovation has come to a halt in Japan and indeed on the surface it may seem that way as Japan has always been known for their hardware: Sony and Nintendo the two leaders at the helm.

However the Japanese people are still spending and looking to spend. They are the users and ultimately, paying customers, even if Japanese companies like Sony and Nintendo fail to deliver ‘innovation’.

Isn’t spend more important than who or what is actually delivering?

When I see figures like these:

non-Japanese companies listed in Japan
1991 = 127
2014 =  21

I can’t help but to be baffled. I get the allure of the BRIC countries but China and India are such unique markets with distinct ecosystems. Why wouldn’t a company want to come to a country with consumers who are looking to spend?

One thing is for sure — like I keep repeating — the world is not going to know what hit them when Japan’s smartphone market finally matures and the numbers that will come out of this country will blow people’s minds.

There is still massive opportunity in this country and one of the biggest reasons I am here.

*above from Japan/Korea Market and Japan App Store Macquarie Research reports unavailable to public.
Listed companies in Japan via The FT

Tragic Incidents and Social Media

There was a 23 year old beaten and murdered outside of a California club. The news has been passing through my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds all day. I’ve been meaning to Tweet or Facebook or something about the incident, but think it deserves more than a Facebook post or a 140 character tweet.

This is a tragic incident and my heart is absolutely broken at the notion of such a young girl meeting her death from such an every day activity as going out. This could’ve happened to anyone and it does. Just Google “beaten to death outside of club” if you’re into that sort of thing.

What’s really disappointing, is how people took the time to take photos and video to upload onto Instagram, Twitter and Facebook while this young girl was getting the living daylights beaten out of her. And then she ended up dying.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s up to the spectators to be superheros but I wonder what it was like before all this social media stuff.

I mean, if people have the time to take photos and video, shouldn’t they… well, call for help? There are club bouncers for a reason. Or at least call 9-1-1 before taking the photo and choosing a filter.

Think back to when we had our Nokia phones, BlackBerries and even Sidekicks and we saw someone getting beat up. Did we still stand around and watch? Did we pretend not to notice? When did we start thinking collectively as a society, that it’s ok to share with our networks vs. helping?

Or is our sharing, just a way to help us humans process such shocking events?

Either which way, something to think about as functioning humans in civilized societies. And especially, for our next generations.

Coverage on the incident are here and here.

WhatsApp: Time to Grow-up and Start Making Money

There is a piece on All Things D about WhatsApp’s CEO calling out other messaging apps and their “bullshit metrics”.

“We want to steer the conversation to be about active users, not registered users,” said WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum. “We’re a bit fed up and frustrated about people talking about registered users. We think it’s important for us as a leader in the space to speak up and be ethical.”

…the CEO, Jan Koum says.

In a competitive space as messaging apps, it’s no longer just about mass adoption. WhatsApp is the most adopted in markets where users do not spend.

These charts basically speak for themselves. Their pay-per-dowload and one dollar annual fee is cute, compared to the business oriented players as Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat.

Messaging apps are not social networks. They are communication tools and now, moving on to becoming businesses, shifting from apps to e-commerce.

I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s peculiar how WeChat has the most MAUs (monthly active users), yet they are profiting the least.

Calling out other players in the messaging space is nice and all but “we have the most users! we are superior!” mind-set is no longer enough.

Time to grow-up and answer the question: Where is the monetization strategy? #1 in MUAs, last in revenues. Hi, Facebook.

*All Things D piece is here
chart sources 1, 2

Why People Should Care About Viki

My Twitter and Facebook are filled with mostly Americans and Europeans. Americans, only talk about American news (maybe a few China this-and China-that when the FT headlines them). Europeans, are 90% US and a few domestic posts here and there too.

I kind of get the feeling no one really talks about Asia and well, that’s ok. I guess that’s why there is a need on the planet for people like me. I digress, where was I? Oh. Viki. Particularly,Viki and Baidu’s partnership.

This is a BIG DEAL and All Things D nails why:

“Viki, which has already done several partnership deals in China, will be Baidu’s first streaming partner from outside the country, which is important given that big players like Netflix and Google’s YouTube are not represented there.”

Just a reminder, Asia has the largest distribution of world wide Internet audience:

global market

So for Viki, to secure a partnership where YouTube, Netflix, et al., aren’t is certainly a big, big, BIG deal.

I’m just sorry more people, well, don’t really give a two shits.
*FT’s coverage is pretty legit too

Messaging Apps: What’s Next

Several have asked “what’s next?” after this post on messaging apps was published. By what’s next, I’m assuming people are wondering what I see as the ‘next big thing’. There are several ‘what’s next’ questions that need answering. Here is one. Who will win the messaging space?

I went into details about Line in particular because they are taking the right steps in differentiating themselves from the other messaging apps.

  1. product evolution — Line, continues building new features and functions that fit user needs. Most recently they released an event app Band, that is like Facebook events but a million times better.
  2. business models — like I said, stickers are not after-thoughts or novelty items. Stickers, are part of their monetization strategy. Line also does merchandising. They license their characters and collaborate with brand partners to bring things like thisbnr_crocs
    Aside from Crocs they partner with toy makers, accessories makers — basically about any company — to bring stuffed animals, plushies, cell phone accessories, and of course, stickers. [1, 2, 3] They recently collaborated with Maybelline to even bring Thailand users flash sales. Their next step, is eCommerce. Obviously.

Because of the above, I believe LINE will be the ultimate of messaging apps. And I still stand by my statement they will not successfully localize in the US. Messaging apps don’t have a place there.

As for the the Snapchat counter-argument, I am pasting a response to a comment.

I commend Snapchat and indeed their rise proves there is a need but if you look at the feature differences, you, too, will agree Snapchat is not on the same playing field as Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat. WhatsApp, Kik and Viber aren’t even on their levels.

Snapchat serves as a fun tool. WhatsApp, Kik and Viber are communication utilities like Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat. The differences are, the latter three have business models and strategies. Where the former are just…building to build.

In the American market, Instagram (if they lay out their product pipeline correctly and ultimately include text communication sans comment thread) will ultimately win the space (in the US).

As for ‘what’s next’, as in what is the next big thing?  Easy: wearables.

I think it’s absolutely fascinating though, how the US is moving back into hardware, while the software shift is happening around Asia. God, I love technology.

Added. Wired agrees wearables are what’s going to be hot, too.

Quantitative vs Qualitative

I once heard a story of how the head of Morgan Stanley’s Emerging Markets spends time on the ground, for months, before drawing conclusions and making moves.

I am not head of emerging markets anywhere nor am I an analyst. I am a technologist.

I started out as a product manager in a Fortune 100 B2B enterprise software corporation. My role was to mobilize their main product. I then continued to find places within the intersection of product, Internet, users and content that aligns with business objects, and fell into marketing and content strategy. I’ve lived through one of, if not, the best, times in technology — experiencing the shift of hardware to software, software to web based apps then to mobile apps. I saw the disruption of music, telecom, hardware and electronic industries. I lived it. Breathed it. Worked in it — and still do. There is nothing I am more in touch with, than technology (even myself).

So yes, my posts are mainly qualitative observations. I depend on multiple analyses and news pieces, blogs and tech blogs, and even Twitter, to stay on top of hot topics.

Right now, there is a lot of focus on Asia.

As someone on the ground in Asia and knows the US market, I hope to bring cultural truths which supports numbers from people who get paid to conduct quantitative analyses.

I love technology. I also have a lot to say; too much sometimes, as I am living in one of the most exciting markets in 2013: Asia.

This blog, is the outlet I dump my thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I love writing them.

Messaging Apps are Not Social Networks

There is a lot of emphasis on Facebook’s youth demographic decreasing and how messaging apps like Snapchat, LINE, WhatsApp and KakaoTalk are becoming the new Facebook and I can’t help but to think: wow, people don’t understand product and technical differences.

Facebook is a social networking platform. Messaging apps are tools for communication.

It’s not that people are leaving Facebook or Instagram for messaging apps, it’s that people are using messaging apps as tools to communicate differently.

There is room for both in the world. It’s just that people are choosing how to talk to those they want to talk to (messaging apps), rather than putting themselves out there for everyone and – literally – their mothers to see (Facebook).

So just like how most people don’t want to socialize with tens and hundreds of people every second of every day, many are choosing to socialize with people in different ways. And they are doing so with photos, videos, text and content.

Facebook and messaging apps are two different things.

12

The Unspoken Rules of the Internet

“When someone tells you to Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, RT something, you don’t ask questions. You just, do it.”

No one ever told me that’s what I was supposed to do…and apparently there are a lot more rules I am oblivious to. I’m one of those anomalies who started out backwards. Where most people in my circle have been blogging and socially networking since the start of the Internet, I just came out of nowhere. In June 2008, I only had a MySpace, Facebook, and randomly blogged on MySpace and Facebook. I found FriendFeed by accident, and it was over – I got addicted to social networking.

This blog started because of FriendFeed, I connected to a lot of people because of the people I met on FriendFeed, but really? I love technology and I love people. The Internet and sharing what I find on the Internet is my hobby. I blog because I have a lot to say. It’s really that simple.

Doing what I love to do for a living means monetizing. And once monies get involved, it’s a whooole ‘nother world. I understand only sharing finds on the Internet and interacting with people won’t get you paid (unless you’re Gizmodo or ICANHAZ.)

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3 Reasons I Hate Tweetups

Oh yes I AM blogging ’bout this.
After several Tweetups, I’ve noticed the same things happening over and over and I am no longer keeping my piehole shut. So to all who go to Tweetups, PLEASE FLIPPIN’  READ.

1. Organizers: please, I beg you, pick a place where the music is not super duper loud – especially during conferences.

Am I the only one who repeatedly have these conversations?
Person: “Hi I’m adlskjfd.”
Me: “What?”
Person: “I AM ALKSJLSDF”
Me: “WHAT??”
Person: “MY NAME IS A:LSKDJSAL, WHAT’S YOURS?”
Me: “I AM SORRY, CAN’T HEAR. TWEET ME!!!!”
<Person: “WHAT???”
Me: (gestures to phone and shows Tweetie, as if to Tweet me)
Person: “OK!”
Me: “SO SORRY. BYE!”
Not sure about you, but the reason I go to swanky bars and pay for overpriced drinks at conferences is to meet and connect with those I’ve been interacting with online in, you know, person. I am tired of losing my voice just to learn someone’s name. Especially after a conference where the yelling happens three or four days in a row.
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