Digital Expectations: from a leadership standpoint

Three years ago I addressed something that should be thought about more so now than ever: Digital communication expectations. In 2017 people rely on chat apps to conduct business: Slack, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Ding Talk, LINE, and such. So now on top of email, we have communication coming at us from various directions.

Currently I manage a team of about 15 people and we are growing super fast. With several projects going on simultaneously, we are in constant communication via Slack, WhatsApp, and Ding Talk (Ding is another chat app for our China clients  — apparently Tencent (WeChat’s parent company) and Weibo cannot be trusted). I told our team there are times I might send messages at odd hours of the day and please do not feel obligated to respond. After a week or so, I noticed everyone would respond right away.

I followed Sheryl Sandberg’s lead in communicating with her team, that just because she sends emails late at night she doesn’t expect an immediate response (via Bloomberg Studio). Laying out expectations encourages a fair, flexible work place. But when I put it to practice, I found this to be unrealistic: Most people will always feel the need to respond right away. Then, I imagined myself working at Facebook and if got an email from Sheryl Sandberg, I would feel obligated to respond right away.

As senior leadership and co-founder of our company, I realized it was now up to me to relieve the team of the burden and this sense of responsibility to prove they are of value. So now I jot things into notes (SimpleNote, Apple Notes, email draft, anything — to prevent from sending messages) and make sure to send during work hours. This method has worked well so far and I encourage other leaders and managers to do the same.

Just something to think about.

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

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.

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

Screenshot_9_10_14_4_54_PM

…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.

Why You Should Care About Unconscious Bias

Nikesh Arora ex-Google exec, now Softbank Internet and Media CEO / vice chairman of the overall company tweeted he is looking for “ivy leaguers with US / Japan experience”. Why did he specify ivy leaguers? Does he realize he is biased?

Or, what about when we see someone in the US, who is using a smartphone other than an iPhone. What are your initial thoughts? It’s okay, be honest. You’re not alone. I’ve heard many girlfriends say things like “I’d never date someone with an Android phone.”

We automatically assume things about people born and raised in certain cities, countries, regions, etc. And judge people by how they look or present themselves to the world. We don’t do it on purpose but we are all guilty of some sort of bias and judgment.

But imagine if you unknowingly carry those thoughts into the workplace. Do you choose to do better work with colleagues you already have an unconscious bias towards? Or what if you are a hiring manager; are you confident your choices aren’t driven by bias?

Ponder that for a second.

I’ve expressed on Twitter how I am thrilled to the toes Megan Smith is America’s new CTO. And it seems most of the tech community is too. General consensus is because she is a female. Or part of the LGBT community. Or both.

I am excited because I have followed her and what she has been doing for Google as an individual (if you’re interested, YouTube her talks from Google I/O or interviews on Google.org and Google [X] to see the many reasons why she is such an excellent leader and technologist — if you love tech from the core like me, it’s really, worth your time.)

One of my favorite clips I’ve seen of her, is about bias — conscious and unconscious bias — which I believe, is important for everyone to be cognizant of. Especially, if you are management level or higher.

This is the video, I’ve been tweeting a lot (with little to zero interest) but now that you’re here, watch:

I wish there were transcripts but some of my favorite soundbites – few are paraphrased:

“You hear venture capitalists talk about pattern matching when they are looking for the next young entrepreneur. But they are also pattern matching for things they have bias in, and not realizing they are doing that. So they might be more likely to fund a White or Asian man vs another (and she gets interrupted).”

“(Unconscious bias) is no one’s fault. It’s not like we are actively doing this. We all have it. It’s inherited. It’s systemic. What we have to do as an industry, is educate ourselves.”

“Diverse teams just make better products. Patents written with men and women on them, for example, are cited more. And the number of times a patent is cited, is a measure to know if a patent is better.”

“If you are applying for a role, a woman would only apply if they have 7 of the 10 characteristics required. Men would apply if they only have 3 of the 10. So as a manager, you just need to be conscious of that, look at all the candidates, and do a little more active work to make sure you’ve got the best pool.”

Google’s Diversity website also has a nice summary of what unconscious bias is:

The science of inclusion

Research shows that when we are more aware of our unconscious bias, we can make more objective decisions. In 2013, more than 20,000 Googlers (nearly half of our Googlers) engaged in workshops that focus on the science of how the brain works. This created a company-wide dialogue around how unconscious bias can affect perceptions of others, interactions with coworkers and clients, and the business overall. We hope our focus on making the unconscious conscious will not only foster a more inclusive workplace, but also make us a better company. Watch this video to find out more.

You can learn more about unconscious bias here, here, or here — or Google yourself.

We can do better. Let us be better.

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:

enjoy-our-deck-sign-up-for-bi-intelligence-below

 

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)
jpg-1

 

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).

jpg

 

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.

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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 8.21.24 PM

 

…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)

SEAsia Messaging App Share

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LOTS of opportunities in SEAsia.
To recap on LINE:

  • 60% of LINE’s revenue came from the mobile games
  • LINE was the world’s top app publisher by monthly revenue
  • LINE Posts $143 Million In Revenue, Up 123% Year-Over-Year
  • $1.5mm USD revenue for user generated sticker marketplace

Granted, we may not see the same sorts of revenues from SEAsian countries, as most are developing nations and notorious for not spending (ex Path is Indonesia’s largest market, yet they never boast revenues or lack thereof).

The next few years will be fun to watch as chat apps mature and become more dominant.
(Sources 1,2,3, image via here)

 

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.

WeChat 101- Quit Comparing WeChat and WhatsApp

WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and Snapchat are not like WeChat, LINE and KakaoTalk.

I’ve written about LINE and KakaoTalk but now it’s time to intro the last player – WeChat. WeChat is not – I repeat NOT anything like WhatsApp or Viber.

Aside from multi-media communication capabilities: photos, video, walkie-talkie and broadcast features, in August of 2013, WeChat completely overhauled their product with v5.1 to add a bunch of new features and functions.

They keep differentiating themselves from the rest of the chat apps and this is why:

  • in-app payments
  • P2P (peer to peer) and O2O (offline-online) core strategy aside from games <– HUGE
  • multiple monetization streams

Payments

WeChat-2

WeChat Payments connects bank card to WeChat account so users can make payments in-app.
Users can make transactions happen through 1. payments to WeChat authorized partner retailers 2. P2P (peer to peer) or in plain English other WeChat users – example: users can send one person a specified amount, or send money to a group and divide the lump sum among a group of friends.  If I had a penny for every time I’ve had issues with group payments where one person pays too much, too little I’d have about four extra iPhones sitting around. Or think about that one person who never has cash, etc., etc. WeChat group payments is the perfect resolution for group events / activities.

O2O / P2P Commerce

WeChat also partnered with sites and services – whether through acquisitions or buying a stake in the company – doing flash sales or becoming the preferred payment partner. To date, DianPing – China’s answer to Yelp, with a Groupon type group buying feature DianPing also offers coupons and discounts and users can even order food for delivery – is one of the most notable.

The other is Didi Dache – China’s Uber – where users can order a taxi and make payments, all in-app. Since forming the partnership in Jan., WeChat reports

  • 21mm cab rides have been booked via WeChat
  • 700k daily bookings via WeChat
  • Didi Dache and WeChat also pay cab drivers bonuses when the drivers use their services vs a competitor

WeChat also aggressively positions themselves as the entry point for global brands who want to reach China’s youths. Most recently, Vivienne Tam and WeChat collaborated to bring NYFW (NY Fashion Week) to WeChat users.

They’ve also done campaigns with Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, Burberry, Pepsi and Maybelline – bottom line, they are making money becoming a payment solution and by advertising as well.

Another monetization channel through partnerships is content. WeChat and Chinese media outlets bring news and entertainment to users. However, instead of solely bringing content into the app like Flipboard or Facebook’s Paper, they have their media partners build proprietary micro-sites into WeChat with proprietary URLs ie: mp.weixin.qq/majorchinesenetwork and charge users subscription fees.

They’ve also ventured into streaming video, launching a standalone TV with CNTV (major Chinese tv network).

If you think that’s all, they are also China’s small business e/m-commerce solution (like Etsy or even Amazon).
Small business accounts are

  • free to create — fee is dependent on level of API customization and how much a business wants to integrate their products and services into WeChat
  • transactions are conducted inside WeChat — which leads to increased time spent inside app
  • bar-code scanner capabilities so people can scan a bar code in a store of something they see and shop for it online for example
  • built in loyalty cards and point card systems

Major brands and retailers to even a college student with a fruit stand can buy and sell on WeChat – that’s how simple it is.

WeChat states they have 300mm active users per month and YoY growth of 124% (note: these numbers are before the Red Envelope campaign that reportedly activated 20mm transactions within 9 days and announcement of all their partnerships).

WeChat is not fucking around.

I’m sure there are so many more features and functions, products and services I may be missing. This is information I gathered through English sources (FT, Economist, WSJ, Techcrunch, The Next Web, Tech in Asia and some random Chinese sites I ran through Google Translate) but even if I don’t know all the details, it’s pretty clear they are one step above the rest of the chat app herd.

One can argue their success is due to the uniqueness of the Chinese market and how the economy is intertwined by a select few and with the government, but strip away all that noise and look at WeChat as a product. They are still several steps ahead of the rest — even LINE, that I am a massive fan of.

2014 is going to be a year to closely watch Asia.

Tencent is offering 10 Terabytes of Storage to Users

Jesus.

Tencent, the parent company to Weibo (China’s largest chat app),  is offering 10 terabytes of storage to their users. That sounds incredible! Amazing! Wondrous!

But I can’t even picture how much 10 terabytes really is…

So of course, I Googled and found some handy pictorial on Neatorama from like, 2008. They charted how much 12 terabytes is worth, which is close enough… I guess.

Behold. This, is 12 terabytes:

It’s nice to visualize, but it’s still hard to really picture (or maybe I’m just stupid?) and upon even further Googling, I came across more examples.

10 terabytes = 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. 300 hours of good quality video. All of the Library of Congress.
Library of Congress = ‘155.3 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. 35 million books and other print materials, 3.4 million recordings, 13.6 millioni photographs, 5.4 million maps, 6.5 million pieces of sheet music and 68 million manuscripts.

Um. What? 838 miles, is approximately the distance from NYC to Disney World. A little more than San Francisco to Vancouver — CANADA. From Mongolia to Kazakhstan (Borat) and it’s like climbing The Great Smokey Mountains. Either which way, that is a lot of frickin’ stuff on a lot of frickin’ mileage. It’s still a bit unclear to me how much 10 terabytes really is and how it makes my life easier.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t LOTS OF STORAGE! a bit backwards…? I mean… in the age of streaming, why would I even want to store all that data? Googling is so much faster and easier. I can find movies and songs, TV shows, reference books, dictionaries, thesauruses… what would I even do with all that storage space?

Maybe my digital habits are bit different because I long ago stopped being an Internet pack rat — I’m all about constantly organizing and discarding.

I’d rather have less storage room with more bandwidth to upload. The CAPd data message: “File upload failed, file too large.” always bums me out.

Any which way, looking forward to seeing how Tencent does.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

When Japanese Efficiency Meets Creativity

Lovely example of when Japanese efficiency meets creativity.
From Peatix, the EventBrite from a Japanese startup.

…sadly, I don’t think a lot of venues will adopt, as lines creates the illusion of popularity, which leads to need then ultimately, conversions.

Would love to see US retailers adopt this to prevent Black Friday madness though (for example). And this, is why I still believe in Japan.

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.

Smartphone Penetration in Japan: WTF

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I know I shouldn’t. And I get it, I really do. Feature phones (flip phones) back in the what? the 90’s in Japan had mind-blowing technology. I remember being in awe every time I visited Japan from the states. I couldn’t believe what flip phones could do. How beautiful the large screens were. How colorful everything seemed. Even ringtones, were better on Japanese phones.

Japan always felt like I time warped into the future.

Fast forward to 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone and the world USA* adopted to smart phones. While Sony and NTT Docomo and Sharp and Panasonic and the rest of the Japanese portable electronic giants looked the other way, iPhones now have the largest market share in Japan.

But still. The rate of smart phone market penetration is just insane. I look at the numbers and can’t help but be awestruck by how behind Japan is…

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I mean… really????????? (chart via here)

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And I look at most recent figures of people who purchased a smartphone from April to September of 2013. 82%. Of those, 68.5% of people switched from a feature phone (flip phone) to a smart phone. (chart via here)

I have no words…

But the good news is, because Japan is slower to adopt to smart phones than other developed nations, there is massive room for disruption. The Japanese are just now getting accustomed to visually appeasing, gesture friendly user experiences, so think of all the possibilities.

You know? I am so so so glad to be here right now.
This is one of the most exciting times to be in Japan.

*edited — Karl, you are correct indeed :)

Steve Jobs.

I love this so much.
Never heard this story.

From the FT archives:

Chelsea Isaacs, a student from Long Island University, had got in touch with the Apple press office to get some information about the iPad for a paper she was writing. Six times she tried, but no response. So she e-mailed the chief executive to complain.

“Mr Jobs, I humbly ask why Apple is so wonderfully attentive to the needs of students, whether it be with the latest, greatest invention or the company’s helpful customer service line, and yet, ironically, the media relations department fails to answer any of my questions which are, as I have repeatedly told them, essential to my academic performance.”

Mr Jobs replied: “Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”

Chelsea composed another long message in which she argued that Apple should have answered out of common courtesy.

This time he responded: “Nope. We have over 300 million users and we can’t respond to their requests unless they involve a problem of some kind. Sorry.”

So she pointed out she was a customer and did have a problem.

He replied: “Please leave us alone.”

via ‘Time to Spit Out More Praise for Apple” published Sept. 26th, 2010.

And I leave with you wisdom, from the one person I admire and basically, worship:

Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

— via Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, June 12, 2005

Much needed reminder. Inspiration. Motivation.
I miss Steve Jobs.

Read the whole thing here

Mentorship in Japan

I attended Tech Crunch Disrupt in Tokyo and had a great time.

I went with zero expectations which I think is why I found so much value from Disrupt. I learned about the Japanese community, the established Japanese venture firms. How Japanese VCs think. The main problems entrepreneurs are attempting to solve, etc., etc. I’m really glad I went.

For the first time in all my years of attending events and conferences, I was tweeting away with the appropriate hashtag as I wanted to meet people…and it worked!  Several people approached me at the event and even contacted me afterwards. In particular, people seem to want to hear more than 140 characters about Kim Mai-Cutler’s session with a Sr. Executive from Docomo Ventures and a Sr. Director at Salesforce.

There was one question: “what are your thoughts on mentoring and how are you mentoring Japanese entrepreneurs?”…that seemed to baffle the Docomo Ventures and Salesforce guys.

At first, I thought there was a language barrier, since the interview was conducted in English. But no matter however many ways the question was rephrased, the concept of mentorship didn’t seem to register.

So the original question of their thoughts on mentoring was changed to: “Is there someone in Japan the younger entrepreneurs look to for inspiration?” followed-up with: “In the US, it’s Mark Zuckerberg for example.” …and that was when the Docomo Ventures guy replied with “what, you want me to name names? *insert laugh*” and the Salesforce director chimed in: “Japan’s entrepreneurship community is like how the US was 10 years ago, so there isn’t a person younger entrepreneurs can look to yet.”

…the latter, was at least an answer but not really an answer.
So I tweeted the following:

Tweet

I get why the non-Japanese in the room were extremely confused by the VC’s answers. It’s near impossible for someone who isn’t Japanese, to understand why the concept of mentorship is non-existent in Japan. It starts with how there is no Japanese word for ‘mentor’ or ‘mentorship’.

One of my most trusted Japanese-English dictionaries defines ‘mentor’ with the etymology then goes into Odysseus and the Battle of Troy. ‘Mentorship’ is translated as 「指導」, which is a disciplinary action for a minor infringement of the rules in judo.

Japan is historically an extremely hierarchial society dating centuries back. Many traditions from our military roots or craftsmanship traits still exist. This history and our culture, is the reason we have so many professionals who have worked years perfecting their crafts. Take Jiro, of ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi‘ for example, who is rewarded a Michelin year after year. He is 85 years old. His son is 50 and they are still constantly working towards mastering the art of sushi. Jiro is an extreme case, but the fundamentals of producing life-long excellence falls under the basic apprentice-master traditions.

What does that mean? Well, we still speak to elders in honorofics. We are taught to do as we are told from top down. We certainly do not question those who are older with more experience. We are expected to learn by reading, listening or observing older and experienced people as questions, can at times be considered a sign of disrespect — like we are questioning their expertise. Or it may signify we are not putting enough effort to find answers on our own, or worst case scenario, stupidity.

There are many Japanese companies that are able to move forward, while anchored in historic methods. But from a technological aspect, I wish for Japan to be one of the first countries outside of the US, to adapt one of the greatest things about the United States: the ability to equate respect with output as opposed to seniority. Tech provides relevant solutions by building products or services — it doesn’t require centuries of silent observation and perfecting a single skill like making sushi.

I also wish for the Japanese community to adopt one of the greatest things of the American tech community: mentoring, fostering, giving back and paying it forward. To build an environment where people collaborate, brainstorm, help each other and share knowledge.

The VC arms of major corporations like NTT Docomo and Salesforce can set examples and pave ways. I was a bit bummed to hear them stumped by Kim’s question. Perhaps this is my warm and fuzzy American side talking but I decided to expand on my tweet, as I am believer in community and mentoring.

As tech is rapidly progressing, I hope the ecosystem evolves as well. If not, I’m just going to have to snail-mail or fax every Japanese VC firm this Plato quote ;)

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
― Plato