Friday, August 22, 2008

Whampoa Club VIP investors

I had the opportunity to moderate a VIP investor roundtable held in Beijing at the rich-in-heritage Whampoa Club, surrounded by tall towers in the city's new financial district. The event was convened by my Hong Kong-based publication, Asian Venture Capital Journal, and sponsored by Morrison & Foerster, international legal counsel to the Olympic Organizing Committee. In attendance were general partners in private equity and venture capital, including KKR and DCM plus limited partners Asia Alternatives, GIC and the Partners Group. That's Ying Jiang, our Beijing office director at AVCJ, standing with me outside the banquet hall.
Thanks Morrison & Foerster for the tickets to the Games. We had a great time!

Web 2.0 Olympics? Not so fast!

The Beijing Games were billed as the world's first web 2.0 Olympics--the time when social networking over the Internet and video streaming would shine as they reflected China's glory of hosting this grand event. But I found it not so.
Facebook was slow and often not accessible. Email was unreliable and often stopped for up to eight hours, then it would suddenly pour into my In box all at once, in a virtual avalanche. The Internet was moving at a crawl. I couldn't access Huffington Post to submit blogs there, but through an email to their NY-based editors, we got my posts live. See Fannin under Huffington Post and you'll see my three posts from the Olympics.
Too many office workers were tuning into live broadcasts from the Web such as those delivered by video streaming service PPLive, a Chinese startup funded by venture capital investors I know in Shanghai. PPLive was the only way I had the chance to see the Olympics live, and that was pretty challenging. I had to guess which Chinese characters represented which commands, like "play." NBC television could not be seen in China since it's the Chinese government's CCTV that has the rights to broadcast the games in the Mainland.
Some web sites remained blocked. Hotmail was certainly not hot, but cumbersome to log into from China. Even the much-promised 3G or third generation mobile phone service was not widely accessible during the Games, although text messaging worked OK. High-speed wireless Wi-Fi service to access the Internet was supposed to be there in abundance but I could never get a strong signal. Maybe there were already too many people on the network at the same time. So how to stay connected with contacts while at the Olympics?
I tried out the microblogging service Twitter, and liked it for its instant gratification. I communicated with friends and colleagues over the fast-paced text messaging system. It even became my best source of real-time news through a tag #080808, specifically set up to follow the action during this period of the Olympics.
When the lip-synching was uncovered at the opening ceremony, Twitter bloggers were all over the news. That's where I first read about it. When China's gold medal hope Liu Xiang withdrew from the road and track competition, I heard about it first on Twitter. Thanks goes to that group of "Twitter'ers" who joined together to create an Olympics series of "tweets." Even the Today Show was on Twitter, and I followed their updates regularly to see what was happening at the Olympics Green. An editor invited me to stop by the set one night, a message delivered to me by Twitter. But we weren't able to make the connection, until too late. See photo above of me at the Bird's Nest on Tuesday night. Oh well, there's always New York's Rockefeller Center. See you there, Matt!

BJ Finale, Aug. 20

See last city view shot I snapped on Wednesday, August 20, 2008.
So long, Beijing. Hate to leave even though today was a little smoggier than most of the blue-perfect skies.

Daily sky log, Aug. 18 & 19

See photos I took on August 18 and 19 in Beijing to get a reality check on what the pollution levels really were -- not bad at all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let's Play Basketball!

I got to see the U.S. trounce the South Korea team in a fast-moving game of women's basketball during the quarterfinals. Here's a few photos from the event. I had tickets to the event, thanks to Morrison & Foerster, the international legal counsel to the Olympic Organizing Committee.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic dream drink

Everyone's in the spirit! The Centro Bar at the Kerry Centre in Beijing even introduced an Olympic-inspired drink. It comes complete with Olympic-colored jelly rings that are edible. Among the ingredients: vodka, peach liqueur, aloe vera juice and champagne. I'm proud of the photo I snapped of the drink.


The hotels may be empty here in Beijing but the skies surely are blue!
See Monday scene, looking west toward the Beijing railway station.
The only thing happening in the hotels is the hospitality centers set up by the corporate Olympic sponsors, including Lenovo, Adidas, Nokia and VW. These places all sport relaxing places to have a drink or snack, while networking with colleagues.
They're off limits to all but the host's invited guests.
I stopped by the Nokia booth to see if I could get some help in accessing the Internet from my phone. I don't have a data package from China mobile, but we were able to pick up a wireless signal and I was on.
Tonight, at the Games, I am going to try out the new 3G phone service here. If it works, I will be able to stream live video from my phone, courtesy of a new service called Qik. I was thrilled to be interviewed on Qik by famous blogger Robert Scoble. So I know it works in the U.S. Now for China!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chinese banquet invite

You're all invited to a banquet that the Chinese Business Network is hosting this coming Thursday, August 21. You'll get to meet the super-cool ladies behind this growing network--Christine and Janet--plus Silicon Dragon author Rebecca Fannin AND have a chance to win a Qik phone AND mingle with techies and venture capitalists in the Valley. Even the Google guys are attending. Come see Qik in action--live video streaming from your phone. Works best with 3G, I've found, not the 2.5G service here in China.
Here's the link to RSVP:

Tuning into PPS Live

I am watching the Olympics via web 2.00-- on, an online video streaming site that has rights to broadcast the Games in China. Interesting. I first discovered the so-called PPStream in March 2007, when the Shanghai startup got funding from two venture capital firms I know, Qiming Ventures and Ceyuan Ventures.
Too bad I can't locate the English-language version of the site, but I am "making do" by guessing which Chinese characters represent which command.
NBC, by the way, does not have rights to broadcast the games in China. That belongs to the government-owned CCTV. I tried logging on to NBC, but got a message telling me that the site could not be accessed here.
For now, I will be PPS-ing. So long. Time for men's gymnastics. See photo I took at the Olympics Village last Sunday night. Can't wait to go again on Tuesday!

Picks of the pix

A weekend in Beijing spells an era of consumerism. The shopping mall at Wanfujing Street was packed with locals checking out the store front windows, and just generally hanging out. The city is beginning to come back to life now that a week has passed since the Olympics opened. This is the first time I've seen real crowds, but not for long and only at the malls and street markets. See photos I took on a Saturday afternoon jaunt through town.

Cloudy daze

Rainy today and a bit gloomy as I peer from my perch on Sunday before noon. I'm going out in a while to have Sunday brunch with my Beijing publisher at McGraw-Hill. We're meeting at the very business-y Traders Hotel, just across the boulevard from where I'm staying. I hope to persuade him to try out the tasty brunch there. Can't wait to hear how the Chinese edition is going, and talk about my next book!

Chinese wine tasting

On the lifestyle front here again, I had a rare treat on Saturday evening-a tasting of wines from around the world in Beijing of all places, not southern France or Napa Valley. Chinese have not been known as big wine drinkers but as consumers increasingly developing a taste for all kinds of goodies, finely aged wine is one of them. Sommelier Peter Teng at the just-opened Hilton close to the Forbidden City took me on a tour of what has to be one of the best wine cellars in town, some 10,000 bottles and 500 labels. That's him shown in the photo with me.
And get this! Not only are the wines paired with the foods here but the hotel's Macanese restaurant Vasco's has a water sommelier who matches up bottled wines with appetizers, entrees and desserts. Now that's something I haven't seen in Manhattan yet!

Friday, August 15, 2008

2 blue sky days in a row

Hurray! So blue outside. I'm going out now to walk the streets of Beijing. Saturday afternoon here, and I've been at the PC since 6:30AM.

High-style Chinese hotel

What's the operator of Cathay Pacific Airways doing in hotels? Plenty. Just in time for the Olympics, Swire Hotels opened its first small luxury hotel in Beijing--Opposite Hotel. I was walking north on Sanlitun Road when I spotted an emerald glass, cube-liked structure surrounded by bamboo trees on the left. Intrigued, I took a look inside and seeing no front desk, thought I had entered a private club. This is part of the scheme to make the hotel more inviting and relaxing.
Let me say that most 5-star luxury hotels operated by the big chains have some new standards to beat here. China teaching the west! All the 99 contemporary rooms have natural wooden floors and a just-noticeable Chinese decor theme. Other notable design elements--the stainless steel swimming pool that reflects fiber-optic lighting and a sunken garden that still provides an overview of an open-air shopping complex that Swire will start building again after the Olympics. Photo gives an idea how it will look.
I had dinner at the Mediterranean restaurant Sureno, but there's an Asian restaurant too. Both have their design inspirations from entrepreneur chef David Laris, the force behind Mezzo in London and Three on the Bund in Shanghai.
My only wish is that I could afford the starting room rates of RMB 5,000 or about $700.

Hollywood Roosevelt in BJ

My book, Silicon Dragon, covers a generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who copied the best ideas from the dotcom days. Now,during my whirlwind week in Beijing, I've seen many dining and lodging concepts copied from the West, too. On Thursday evening, I ventured out to a new boutique hotel in the popular Sanlitun district, Hotel G, that is decorated in retro 1960s. (You have to like purple to love it.) Off the lobby is the hotel's restaurant 25 Degrees, which strives to be a carbon copy of the burger bar of the same name in the famous Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. Both hotel properties are owned by Hong Kong-based Gaw Capital. While I was enjoying my burger with sun-dried tomatoes and onions, the owner of the joint, Goodwin Gaw, came by to chat. Turns out he's a Stanford grad and has funding from some of the institutional investors I know. Here's a photo of Goodwin (above) that I snapped at the restaurant.

Peking Duck@Hidden City

Beijing used to be a wasteland for good eats--at least for "expats" like me. But no more. Last night, I was treated to the most delicious Peking Duck at a chic place called Hidden City, built around a former 1949 factory in Beijing tucked behind the IBM tower here. The complex combines a courtyard of gardens and trees surrounded by a LED-lit bar, a watch-them-make-it noodle bar and the signature restaurant where I ate, Duck De Chine. The place also houses a gallery showing works of contemporary Chinese artists. Soon, the establishment will offer memberships to a Club 49 retreat within the complex. I had the opportunity of meeting the owner/manager, Paul Hsu, who happened to be dining there as well. He's typically on the road, managing the multiple restaurants he has in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Indonesia as part of his Elite Concepts group. Sad to say, don't think they will open a NYC or SF outlet soon, given how much growth there is in China.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tweeting w the Today Show

Talk about social networking. I spotted the Today Show on Twitter, looked up their address and sent them a "Tweet," complaining about how slow the web is since BJ'ers are watching the Olympics by webcast: peer-to-peer live video streaming, thanks to a company called PPLive (yes!). Guess what? I got an instant reply from the Today Show. Very, very slow web, Matt (?) wrote back.
Come about 4pm every day and I'm ready to give up trying to stay connected. Better to try a different kind of surfing elsewhere. But I'm having too much fun here in Beijing.

Where BJ'ers are

The city is deserted because most everyone is home watching the Games. Or, some can be found taking a sneak peek at shopping malls such as this one, in the China World complex. The women's gymanistics competition (right), where the U.S. won the gold medal, drew a much heavier crowd than fencing did.

First Blue Sky Day

All right! Wonderful weather we're having in Beijing today--Aug. 15, 2008.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Volunteers need business

Want more proof that Beijing didn't fill up with tourists during the Olympics?
I was walking on Chang'an Boulevard in the central district when I stopped to pick up some maps and brochures from volunteers manning this "help desk" for Olympic visitors. Not much activity here! Where IS everyone? Guess the new visa procedures kept more people away than many had projected.

Views from BJ, Aug. 13-14

The bloggers here in Beijing are saying: welcome, my old friend, "shmog."
See for yourself in this right-hand photo taken Wednesday -- same time, same place as the other days I'm recording.
And, it's worse Thursday morning. See photo on the left. But believe it or not, it's better than usual.
Some residents say too that Beijing is normally hazy in the summer, when the humidity is high and the winds don't blow the bad air away from the city. I've been here in the fall and enjoyed one blue sky day after another. But not this time.

On tour with NBC crew

I've just returned from an evening at the St. Regis Hotel. Again, surrendipity reigns! This is the first-class hotel where the NBC crew is parked for the next two weeks, staying in the comfort of fine lodgings that usually serves diplomats, given its close proximity to the Embassy district. The Celestial Court Chinese restaurant is closed for business. It's taken over by desks equipped with high-speed, Internet-connected personal computers. That's a rarity in Beijing, I've found. So many people are onlline here now at the same time that bandwidth is strained. Forget about accessing videos. Facebook is painfully slow to open, too, and sometimes not accessible. Twitter, still, is OK. Anyhow, I didn't spot Matt Lauer at the St. Regis, but would have liked to say hi -- he is a graduate of Ohio University, like me. He was at the Olympic Village, along with thousands of other journalists.
What I find remarkable is how deserted the city is -- and how wonderful it is this way. Let the alternate day-of-the-week driving restrictions remain in place. Let people take the new subway lines, like I have. See how comfortable they are! Sure beats the no. 6 line in Manhattan.

View from BJ, Aug. 12

Today it is nearly blue sky days in Beijing. Keep counting!
I thought the Chinese really had found a way to scientifically
alter the weather for one perfect day after another, but guess
not. Tomorrow may be better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where Bush slept in Beijing

Monday night here in Beijing and I was off to have dinner at the newly opened Westin Hotel along the East Third Ring. Little did I realize that the Westin is also where the Bush family has been staying during the Olympics. I should have guessed by the police cars outside and the security check inside the front door. But no. It wasn't until I met with the hotel's management that I got the inside scoop. The president had checked into the Presidential Suite for four nights, with his wife, daughter and father in tow. The current President Bush did not venture outside the suite but his dad felt free enough to roam about the hotel. Bush Sr. had dinner one night at a private dining suite of the hotel's Chinese restaurant.
Some curious things I learned. The security force included 30 dogs of all kinds and 100 secret service officials. The President used the Service elevator to leave the hotel secretly to go to the Games. He used in-room dining exclusively and ordered mostly Cantonese food, which he loves. That in spite of the fine dining steakhouse, Grange.
When I asked the general manager why the U.S. government chose the newly opened Westin for its visit, he said the contract was negotiated over a 10-month period. What sealed the deal, I think, is that the soon-to-open U.S. Embassy is just across the boulevard from the Westin -- which also is on a straightaway to the Games and the Airport.
All in all, it was more than a good trial run for the hotel's opening just three weeks earlier. Bush even held a press conference at the hotel.
Here's a photo I took during my brief visit of the Westin, outside on a balmy summer night in BJ.

Monday, August 11, 2008

View from BJ, Aug. 11

The temperatures are cooler and the skies clearer now that the rain has passed.
Here's a bird's eye photo, Aug. 11, from my nest in Beijing.

Olympics athletes detour to Village

Sunday night and it's raining "cats and dogs" here in Beijing. Wish I could hail a cab but no luck. I've just come from a bloggers meetup at the Beijing Bookworm, sponsored by Olympics sponsor Lenovo and its ad agency Ogilvy & Mather. At the meetup were two blogging athletes who have been equipped with Lenovo PCs to continue their normail blog routine here. So happens that they have managed to hail seemingly the only empty taxi in the area. As they get directions to the Olympic Village, I ask if they could take me to my destination first. It's not far out of the way, so they agree. But the cab driver doesn't get the signal from the athletes; it's a communications breakdown due to language barriers. I end up at the Olympics Village and get to know these two athletes better on the way. Both represent Namibia and both are cyclists. Mannie Heymans has a blog, The other gentleman athlete, Erik Hoffman, doesn't have a blog but managed to tough it out in the heat and humidity of the men's road race on Saturday. The photo here shows Mannie on the left and Erik. As we drive up to their dorms, I got to see the Bird's Nest and Bird's Nest in the twilight, and got the driver to understand my destination and take me there next. All in all, a 45-minute detour. How's that for surrendipity?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What it looks like here

Here's a photo I snapped late Saturday afternoon, soon after I arrived in central Beijing. The picture tells a thousand words. Need I say more about the count of those blue sky days? August 9 was not one of them. But frankly, it was about comparable to a typical day in LA.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing is a ghost town

Big surprise! I've arrived to find Beijing a ghost town during the Olympics. Where are the crowds? No need to worry about traffic jams. There aren't any. My flight from Vancouver to Beijing had 50 seats open and I got three to myself -- just the thing for beauty rest. At the airport, I sailed through customs and picked up the luggage in about 15 minutes. Then, I boarded the new high-speed rail link from the airport to downtown. From there, I transferred to the new subway line 10, and made it to my destination within 90 minutes of landing.
The new Airport Express was efficient, fast and inexpensive but not entirely smooth. See photo I snapped on the train--actually the image won't upload for some cranky reason but I won't say more here. The doors did not open when the train missed the opening at the platform. Signs at the airport weren't clearer about where to catch the train. I went down three flights of escalators and ended up in the parking garage before finding my way to the ticket window -- thanks to a Beijing Olympics volunteer (an English-language teacher at a private school) who guided me to the right place. As the subway pulled into my station, I looked around for the right exit. Just in time, another volunteer came up and directed me to Exit E. Then, he offered to help me tow my luggage to my destination some three blocks from the station. I gladly accepted.
While not up to the standards of the Hong Kong airport express, it was certainly an improvement over most public transport in the U.S.--my latest journey on an Amtrak Bus from Seattle to Vancouver as my last memorable excursion. The King Street Station in Seattle was eerily empty and the bus was an hour late as it waited for a delayed train to synch up with before departing.
All in all, just glad to be in Beijing and ready to get caught up in the excitement!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vancouver Talks about Beijing

The Vancouver Board of Trade and the Hong Kong Canadian Business Association hosted a Silicon Dragon talk as part of their Distinguished Author Series.
See this newspaper article about the event:
And check out the classic clothes I'm wearing. Courtesy for that goes to the Marriott, where the event was held. When I showed up at the hotel for the event minus my luggage, the Marriott staff promptly arranged a new wardrobe for me to wear at the occasion. Otherwise, people would have been treated to seeing me in my best jogging outfit -- not a treat.
Now that's service!
We had about 100 people at the event, including fellow authors, journalists, leading business execs, students and academics. The Canadian bookseller Chapters was there for the book signing. I was very impressed with the pro-active leadership of the Vancouver Board of Trade. Check out my photo with the director, Darcy Rezac.
Later, the Four Seasons Vancouver hotel hosted me for a dinner at their wonderful new restaurant, Yew. Their Moroccan waiter arranged for lots of special tastings, including a wonderful Pinot Noir from British Columbia, a delicious sampling of pastas, and two great seafood entrees.
Air Canada was great to keep me informed on news of the missing-in-action luggage.
It did show up just about dinner-time.
Yes, Vancouver may very well be the world's most livable city.
Off to Seattle today for a cocktail reception and book reception with the Washington State China Relations Council. Next Beijing!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Let the Fun Begin! in BJ!

Already, the fun is starting. I've packed my bags and waiting at the airport for the flight to Vancouver, and on to Beijing.
My usual drive in Beijing won't be able to meet me at the airport this time. His car has an even-numbered license plate and by new Chinese government rules to reduce traffic jams and clean up the pollution, cars cannot be on the road two days in a row. The rule is enforced through monitoring of odd and even license plates. On the date my flight arrives, cars with even plate numbers are forbidden by the highway. I'll have to try out the new high-speed rail link from the airport into town instead.
Just as soon as I pack my bags, I head off for a business reception of investors at the White House of Beijing. Talk about quanxi! Quick update on this: everyone from the mayor of Beijing to former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was there, plus business heavies such as KKR's Henry Kravis. Check out this photo of the entrance to the State Guest House, where the event was held.
While in Beijing, I'm also moderating a roundtable panel of investors for We also have an outing to the Games! Women's basketball is very fun to watch, I'm told, so we'll see.
The next day, it's coffee with one of my venture capital friends. I also plan to get equipped with a Qik phone to record images of Beijing during the Olympics. Thanks to Qik for making this happen.
Finally, let me thank Guy Kawasaki for putting this blog on Alltop -- a unique site that aggregates blogs by subject area. Mine is found under China.
Here's the link to Alltop:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Robert Scoble heads to China for high-tech fun

Blogger Robert Scoble is going to China! He just interviewed me in Silicon Valley about my book, Silicon Dragon, and I gave him a few tips on what high-tech cool things to check out in Beijing and Shanghai.
See my interview with Scoble:

Since Scoble made his fame by blogging about Microsoft, I told him to be sure to meet Fang Xingdong, the guy who started the first blog site in China, called Bokee. Xingdong also made a name for himself by rants and raves about Microsoft. Only trouble is that Xingdong still faces censors.

Hot Subject

The theme of my book, Silicon Dragon-How China is winning the Tech Race, is a hot subject.
If you don't believe me, read this article in today's New York Times: High-tech innovation coming out of China.
What the article doesn't mention is all the entrepreneurial startup companies that are emerging today with advanced technology. Many of these startups are funded by the same venture capitalists who discovered Google, Hotmail and Facebook.
For more info on the book, see