Project Alpha HCMC


We had a great show in Manila and submissions are open. Submit your decks soon – they don’t stay open for long.

Next stop is Vietnam :: Project Alpha

If you plan on attending – sign up soon.

Also, check the list of stuff for the winners. We just added a Stripe deal!


Nice article about Taembe from Vietnam

I mostly go on and on about Singapore but Don from Taembe sent me this today. I thought I would share.

When I first started working for Yahoo, I would spend a lot of time in Vietnam. Yahoo used to be the King of online in Vietnam. Everyone was on messenger, everyone used Yahoo mail and Yahoo 360 was the social network for Vietnam. It was fun doing business in Vietnam carrying a Yahoo biz card. 

Even saved my ass once at immigration.

I was going to HCM to speak at a government conference and I changed my flight to one day earlier than I had first booked. When I arrived I realized my visa date was for entry the next day. The immigration folks were basically saying I could fly back or hang in the airport till the next morning. Neither sounded like a great option. As we kept chatting they asked what was I doing in Vietnam and I showed them my Yahoo biz card. Boom. In like flynn.

Those were good years.

The world has changed and Yahoo is meaningless now.

Interesting to see the new breed of internet companies and I am watching to see if the started in Vietnam companies can start to take on the region and greater Asia. Time will tell.

What is happening with Yahoo?

Had a few people pinging me and looks like some serious retrenching in EMEA and Asia.

It makes sense – outside of the USA the biz keeps falling. What is scary though, is in places like Asia, other companies are growing like a weed. Is Yahoo quickly becoming a USA focused company or is this just more centralization around running the biz from the states? But these are sales folks though so not sure how one can grow the number by losing more sales people?

I am sure there is more info to come. What is stunning though is at one point Vietnam was one of the bigger offices in Asia – pricey real estate too. Gone are the days where Yahoo 360 and messenger ruled the roost. I think in places like Vietnam where Yahoo used to be powerful, Yahoo is suddenly looking irrelevant.

I argue the biggest issue in Yahoo Asia is that the team has not brought in new blood similar to what has happened in EMEA and USA.

The numbers are telling – the revenue keeps slipping in Asia and the Alibaba pressure is greater than ever.

Quite the shakeup.

I am sure more news to come.

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 2

Part 1 ::

The path a company takes with the products and services they offer to customers is highly dependent on who is running the organization coupled with how the organization is constructed. At Yahoo this is no different but in my experience it might actually suffer a bit by how the company is organized at its core. This is an important topic to cover since this ultimately influenced how Koprol was managed – it also points to some of the core issues with Yahoo in general.

I must confess that I am 2 years plus out of Yahoo now with many of my good Yahoo friends already working at other companies. So my inside knowledge is obviously much reduced. This means I am going on what I personally experienced but from all outside appearances the overall structure of Yahoo has not changed much in the last few years apart from better food and phones.

Yahoo primarily is broken down into 3 distinct regions – America, Europe and Asia but there used to be an Emerging Markets group that covered Southeast Asia, Middle East and India separately. The HQ for that group was in Singapore which at the time made Yahoo one of the biggest players in the region and with a big head count in Singapore. What this meant was their was bizdev, legal, sales and even some product folks were aligned especially with the needs of that region. This can be seen as both a good thing and as a bad thing depending on the angle since this group would focus entirely on growth but at the same time the Sunnyvale HQ was not always supportive of the separate region. I think it was for the most part a good thing since it meant the team would move fast and try to evolve quickly enough to keep the region growing but Sunnyvale wanted to start reeling things in to make the company function better as a global unit. This was a tough time for the region cause it meant that SEA and India would now fall under APAC and the ME went to EMEA. Tumultuous times all around.

Once this decision was put in place the Singapore HQ started to let folks go and move people around to fit the new world order. This actually was a good start to get the region receiving more attention from HQ but it also meant a lot of changes. Looking back I don’t think this transition went all that well and might even be a good marker for the overall downward trend for Yahoo in some of these markets. However in a lot of places the downward trend was already happening anyway but I think what made the old organization unique was the ability to act quickly and make a lot of independent decisions. That autonomy was now gone.

For Yahoo Southeast Asia it makes sense to give you some overview of this org and the countries it operated in since this lead a lot to my decisions for where to focus my efforts on looking for small acquisitions.

Yahoo HQ for SEA was Singapore but also home to Yahoo Singapore. This group was a pretty good size since the revenue from Singapore was the largest when I was there even though the audience size was the smallest. This is important to note since it always made for an awkward situation of having to decide where to focus resources – on an area where the users are but not the dollars or where the money is.

Yahoo Malaysia was another proper office that had a small editorial team and sales. Yahoo Malaysia had lots of room for growth but there was always the issue of how much to localize and how to find the right mix to attract the local users. I didn’t spend much time there at all so I can’t really speculate as to how well it was or is doing but it was never really booming for Yahoo.

Yahoo Thailand was never really an office. Used to be some Thai folks would help to manage it from Singapore with some Thai content but it never really grew. When I was there I helped a few times, I didn’t lead the effort but was supportive of it, to try and push harder in Thailand. Anyone could look at the stats for growth of the internet and mobile internet and make a case for trying to take some market share. Problem was MSFT practically owned some of the market and Google was quickly taking over the rest of it. At some point in time Thailand was very Yahoo friendly with people advertising with their Yahoo email addresses or their Yahoo messenger ID’s but those days were long gone. Yahoo couldn’t make a valid case for trying to go back in and win. Yahoo Thailand looks like now it just points to – so essentially they have given up on the place.

Yahoo Vietnam was one of the early success stories of going in with a local office and hitting it hard. The numbers looked good and the growth was good for a while but this came with it’s own complexities due to the rules in Vietnam. I won’t get into it much cause I am not a legal person but essentially once you setup shop in Vietnam with feet on the ground you are subjected to some level of government scrutiny and intervention. This makes is hard to really try and go big in the region. Yahoo’s work in news/entertainment is labor intensive and requires localization so it means that to build a great business around that you have to be as local as possible but that also means you are competing with truly local companies who might be willing to do what a multinational cannot. I will leave it at that. So Yahoo did quite well there but suffered some black eyes with the closing of some very local products and just dealing with trying to be a big local presence. At some point one could argue Yahoo owned Vietnam with products like Yahoo 360, messenger and email but I am sure those days are gone.

Yahoo Indonesia was another place the local org chose to focus on due to the size of the market, the relative openness around news and the fact that Yahoo seemed to get a warm reception from the population around Yahoo products. So Yahoo Indonesia became another decent size local office and there was even a lot of attention from Sunnyvale. Revenue wise though Indonesia was a tough nut to crack at the time. High user growth but low revenue makes for interesting times. At the present time I think Yahoo is fairing well in Indonesia but has lost a lot of employees and I think the competitors are beginning to cement a solid lead over Yahoo in many areas.

Yahoo Philippines also was a large local market with a decent size local office. This country was largely getting the same treatment as Indonesia since the brand was doing well there and the country was big. It had some of the same issues of needing to grow revenue but also to try and just grow the user base. The news/entertainment market was vibrant and fit well with the Yahoo suite of products. From what I remember, like Indonesia, the growth was good but Yahoo was beginning to lose share in some core products cause there was now competition in the marketplace where there was not before.

So with that background in mind I figured I would focus my efforts for scouring the region in Indonesia and the Philippines. Vietnam was out because it was too sketchy to put an engineering org there due to lots of legal issues. Personally I had a hard time connecting with Malaysia and just didn’t feel equipped to make a difference there. Singapore felt like it was going to be an expensive place to acquire and didn’t check the boxes for a place to expand engineering long term. Thailand was out cause we just didn’t have a big enough presence and with all my personal experience there – I just don’t trust Bangkok as a place to invest in. Look at current events to get a sense of that. I love the country but would I convince a large multinational to go all in – not with a straight face.

I even considered ways to look into Cambodia and Laos but the general consensus was Yahoo wasn’t going to try and expand the region. Keep in mind Yahoo was known for doing joint ventures to expand in some regions – this is how Yahoo Australia and Yahoo Japan were created. There was some people at the time who felt Yahoo should have done more of this. I tend to agree even though it is hard to create the joint ventures. Yahoo can offer brand, technology, and consulting – the other side of the venture brings local expertise, money and government connections. Many of us felt Yahoo could have pushed into a lot more countries with this model but it is probably too late now.

Small side journey – Yahoo was very early in all these regions and probably could have been a lot bigger if it tried to buy or build more things locally. I think this is the crux of the issue with the emergent markets versus the stable or developed markets. Yahoo’s core product suite wasn’t really appealing to the emerging markets young generation and if the region was left alone quite possibly the strategy would have been to build products, acquire, partner or white label whatever was needed to try and win the region over for the long haul. Instead what become the strategy was to take whatever Sunnyvale made and try to shoehorn it into the region. Not sure anyone can answer what would have been the best thing to do but if it were up to me – I would have probably tried to tweak for the local market as much as possible. This is what Yahoo did in Taiwan and for the most part it worked however the strategy stopped at some point and it looks like the market share in Taiwan is falling. I don’t think it will be like Korea where Yahoo made a full retreat but I doubt it will return to its former dominant position.

Deciding whether the global command and control technique of building products for the globe is better than localizing for the region is an age old question. If one looks at facebook or google you see very little localization apart from language and for those companies it has worked. Yahoo for a long time was straddling both fences of localization and global products but not doing either well. It seems under the new regime it is going to be back to global products with language and content localization. It remains to be seen what will turn Yahoo around at this point. My opinion is the the current management is mostly focused on the USA and to some extent Europe while waiting to capitalize on the Alibaba IPO. Apart from the core aspects of Asia it seems me Yahoo is now withering on the vine some in places like SEA and India.

Part 3 ::

June 20, 2010

Singapore with it’s tiny 4 million population has 402,992 iPhones, 76575 iPod Touch and 1,453 iPad’s  totaling  480,950 iOS devices. Contrast that to its counterpart, Android devices total up to 32,918. While considering the fact that, iPhone had a head-start in the Singapore market for a year before the first Android device was released, the sheer ratio of iPhone to Android is among the highest across countries.

Find that the regional usage of phones just so bizarre. So the iPhone practically owns Singapore. Then pretty solid numbers for Vietnam and Thailand but get on a one hour plane ride to Indonesia and you see maybe 5 iPhones in all of Jakarta. So if you are a product person dealing with this region you really have to examine your goals country by country. Rough.

As a parting shot dear reader, if you are thinking about being the next Gowalla or Foursquare, think outside the box. The world is a very large, and spherical place, mapped by a long/lat address.

What about developing countries, where the penetration of mobile data usage far outstrips that of broadband, or even dial up modems?

99% of all location services I have seen are targeted squarely at Early Adopters. If you are looking for the next big thing in location, one that attracts people in the millions, look at the developing markets, because connecting people in disparate locations, and giving those people a way to share information is a great start.

My thoughts exactly – there is room for some thinking around emerging markets, non-smartphones and innovation around location with dumb clients. Going to be interesting.

Carr admits he’s something of a fatalist when it comes to technology. He views the advent of the Internet as “not just technological progress but a form of human regress.”

I was on one of my walk/runs listening to this podcast and was in total agreement. I find that I just can’t concentrate like I used to. I am always looking to switch stimuli at any moment but I don’t think it is particularly healthy. I am putting an effort into trying to change this. Reading a book with nothing else on. Going the coffee shop with the paper and nothing else. I purposefully bought and iPod classic versus a touch so that I would just use it for music and the occasional video. Seems to be working but I seriously wonder how we are messing ourselves up over the long haul.

While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data. Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.

His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

This is your brain on computers.

Yup – seems we do have a problem. I hope I never get like that.

Though other headphones can compete on quality, what sets these ones apart is that they are gaining mass market appeal, reaching beyond audio geeks, thanks in part to the heavyweight talent behind them.

I would go farther to say that Dr. Dre and Monster took a play from the Apple playbook. The packaging of the product, the case, the accessories, the careful selection of promoters and even the service set these headphones apart into their own league. I am not sure how I can leave without them but maybe my brain wishes I could.

Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Singapore and now Kuala Lumpur

Been a roving madman lately. Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, back to Singapore and now in KL.

Some events and stuff to be aware of. Today and tomorrow is BarCamp KL –

In Vietnam we were on a MSFT .Net tour showing Yahoo! integration.

See some of that here (Go Jimmi):

Next big thing I am working on is Yahoo’s! presence at Echelon –

Should be an awesome event for the region – I suggest if you are in the area to come.

At BarCamp KL we are also doing TWIA live – should be fun. Stay tuned!

Food for thought: – more on that later.


Daring Fireball, Vietnam, iPhones – the world is so small!

It is strange when reading the web and you come across funky connect the dots type of reads. I spend a fair amount of time in Vietnam and have been watching the market closely. I also read Daring Fireball a bunch and appreciate his blend of tech and news. It was a treat today to check his blog to see a link to a Vietnam iPhone app. The app is called CatPaint:

Strange but true – I guess the weird stuff wins in the nascent Vietnamese iPhone market. As far as I know there is still not an official carrier but the hacking on iPhones in Vietnam is legendary. Even hardware based unlocking as shown here. You see a fair amount of iPhones in Vietnam – even stored dedicated to selling, unlocking and servicing them.

Playing with iPhones in Vietnam I have not seen anything real killer but you will see useful apps related to finding places and people. I like this model and think it has legs – one of the ones I have been following is diadiem which has an iPhone version. There is also Thodia but I don’t think they have an iPhone app yet. Something to watch for.

Lots going on in Vietnam. I was just at Barcamp Saigon and met a lot of cool people. Lots of follow up needed. Hope to be back next month.

Tonight I will be at HackerspaceSG and will write more about the local scene soon!

Some photos from Barcamp Saigon:

More photos or video tagged with #barcampsaigon on Flickr

SEA tour mostly over…

The goal was to get to all my countries before the end of the year – tough to do any thoughtful 2010 planning without getting to the places you are making plans for. Check my TripIt for stats. 🙂 Going from no-flying to flying means I am a peon on Star Alliance again and hoping to get some love before the end of year cutoff.

I was in Manila for a week and did the rounds. Podcast interview here for all the groupies. Manila was an interesting market since it feels like it should be happening more than it is but the startup scene is very small. I think this has to do with the local domination of telecoms, the lack of an angel network and a quiet hacker scene. Very different from being in Singapore or Malaysia where the Government is throwing money all over the place trying to get things going. I need to dig more in Manila and see if we can help get things like Barcamp going.

Speaking of Barcamp – I am in HCMC right now for Barcamp Saigon. Looks to be a cool event! Hoping to dive a little deeper into the Vietnam scene this weekend.

Since I am in Vietnam let’s talk FaceBook – quite the backlash over the new privacy stuff. It is quite the reversal from what FB originally started as. For me, as the site keeps growing, FB is getting less and less useful. The signal to noise ratio just keeps climbing every month. Everyone is trying to use their personal FB accounts to be the next social marketing star. It gets old fast. I think niche networks might start to get more interesting as FB gets less useful.

Seems simpler plays liek Foursquare and gowalla might get more interesting because they help you with what to do and who to do it with. All this could change of course if FB gets more local and makes location based programming easier but for me – I am starting to delete friends on FB more than I am adding them.

Another possible entrant to the location/review game in Singapore. Will be looking it more soon. Seems similar possibly to Koprol. This is an interesting space since the big guys will focus on Europe and Americas while regional guys will try to build something in their home countries. I am waiting for one of the regional guys to try and take the whole region as a defensive play for when the big boys come to town. Question is will they since getting the local info is not easy.

Another possible biz idea for one of these players is rather than being the end user builder there might be a chance to be the pick and shovel dealer for all the various players trying to build social/location/yelp sites. Someone could be the guy offering all the location data and some sort of promo/ad engine around it. Then the other guys concentrate on building the interfaces, social model and grow the user  base. Right now all these guys are struggling with getting local info and building sites. Might be tough.

I think that is it for now. Gotta bunch of work to do but I need to get better with the blog.


ps. Good to see one of the winners from Open Hack Day with his site up and running. If you are into twitter and Indonesia then you will dig this site:

Back from Vietnam!

After open Hack Day Jakarta – I went straight over to Vietnam for another week on the road. HCMC (Saigon) for a few days and then Hanoi to close it off. Met a bunch of startup and some of the local VC players. Thanks to the IDG guys for showing me around a bit.

Given freedom of speech issues news type sites are not the order of the day in Vietnam – unlike places in Indonesia where news, community and user generated content are huge.

However there is some cool stuff going on.

For a local map player trying to go the Yelp model check:

For more of a review based site check:

Then there is the Moore group building some community stuff and infratructure for other online players:

For financial stuff there is:

Football betting:

Popular women’s site:

Leading jobs site:

Online dictionary:

Music and entertainment:

Also, given the VN FB mess, this local social network site is growing:

Also – can’t leave out the big kahuna in the online game space:

I am sure there are more – was a busy week.

The internet is in pure growth mode but the sites seem to be very locally focused with mostly no English interfaces. I have yet to meet any players who profess to wanting to grow their sites/companies outside of Vietnam. Not sure this is smart or not – it could be the move for now but I think big ideas will need to target the SEA region – not just Vietnam.

In Manila this week, then Thailand and then back to Vietnam.

Location stuff a topic everywhere I go.

carry on!