Wednesday, November 19, 2008

FT gives stars to Silicon Dragon

China may spring surprises by taking the tech lead. Check out Silicon Dragon in the Financial Times:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Silicon Dragon: Bokee woes

Silicon Dragon: Bokee woes

Bokee woes

Bokee is all about drama and its finale appears to be equally so. It is the first of the dozen-plus Chinese startups I profile in Silicon Dragon (McGraw-Hill, 2008) that hit financial troubles so severe it can't go on. This is in spite of determined efforts by founder Fang Xingdong--one of China's blogging pioneers--to make it over the past three years. Now employees are going unpaid, and the venture capital investors who once supported Bokee with $10 million are forced to exit without a financial return.
Bokee was once China's leading blog-hosting company, but lost its edge to Chinese web portals such as Sina. Like many blogging startups, it never made money.
In Silicon Dragon, I wrote of deep financial trouble and management turmoil at the startup. I also chronicled the trials of the independent-minded founder as he was outsted by his board as CEO in late 2006 and then fought his way back to the top, only to lose most of his management team a few months later. See
Credit goes to Fang Xingdong for continuing to tough it out despite forewarnings by his investors that the cash was going to run out by the end of 2007. In 2006 alone, Bokee lost $4 million.
For the record, Bokee's investors are Granite Global Ventures, Mobius Venture Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund.
They once had high hopes that Bokee would be a NASDAQ star like some of the earlier Internet startups (think Baidu) from China. Now it's a write-off.
And now, Xingdong can turn his full attention to running Chinalabs, the incubator he co-founded during the Internet bubble to nurture startups. He is bound to have lots of entrepreneurial lessons to tell the next generation of web 2.0 leaders.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

checked out Hotel Jen

I just checked out from a great new hotel in Hong Kong. It's in the western district, near Kennedy Town and a short trolley ride from central. Everything about the place was efficient-wireless worked, AirCon could be adjusted properly, rooms were so funtional yet pleasing and quiet. There's even a swimming pool and small gym. This place has not been discovered yet, but I would recommend it for all traveling business execs who want quite a decent place just a little off the beaten track. Execs should make sure to get a room with the Club Floor access. See

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Valley @ Hong Kong

I am so happy to be in Hong Kong now, after a long tiring week in Taipei, topped off by a brief book stop in Manila. Today, I gave a lecture at the Hong Kong Science & Technology University in outward Kowloon far from MTR. Anyhow, the view (see photo) more than made up for the distance traveled. Bay Area of San Francisco, "eat your heart out." HKUST has the most "drop dead" beautiful view of any place I've been in Hong Kong, outside the Peak.
The students' enthusiasm for all topics entrepreneurial was encouraging. Is there hope that Hong Kong can find its way in this China tech boom? Certainly, the government-operated and well-intentioned Cyberport isn't the answer (though maybe it should be). And maybe the university is the Silicon Valley solution for Hong Kong--as the school offers a unique dual degree in technology and management
Professor Shum is a first-rate teacher who invited me to speak here. He teaches entrepreneurship--not an easy thing to do. Ask Guy Kawasaki. Anyhow, the "Professor" won my heart for having read my book and recommended it to his students as case studies for bootstrapping entrepreneurial lessons. The students seemed to like my talk and my book (see photo).
My voice almost did give out about midway through the lecture--thanks to a combo of air pollution, air conditioning, no C, and too many speeches in five days.
All in a week's book tour.
Next the Asian Private Equity and Venture Capital Forum. Check it out & see you there (Shangri-La Hotel, Wed-Fri).

Sunday, November 9, 2008


How can you tell how tech savvy a market is? Well, first, by checking out how many people are clicking away on their laptops or PDAs at the airport. Secondly, by seeing how the Internet connections work at the hotels. Surprise! China is ahead of most other Asian markets and far ahead of the West. Nearly all the hotels I've stayed in Beijing and Shanghai have Wi-Fi connections with no troubles. But in Manila and even electronics central Taipei, no Wi-Fi. It's still broadband cable. Same goes for Manila.
By the way, I hate those charges the hotels tack on for Internet. It should be as free as the tap water we drink, though not necessarily in these places.
I am off to Hong Kong on Monday, a place where the infrastructure is first rate.

Makati time

Ok, so even the Dragon doesn't always breathe fire. After a week of five speaking events from Taipei to Manila, from the Rotary Club to the AmCham, the Dragon's roar went faint and dropped to a whisper.
I think it had something to do with the vocal cords and lungs encountering air pollution in outdoor heat and humidity coupled with blasts of chilly air conditioning inside -- two curses of traveling in emerging markets.
Several steaming cups of tea and plenty of water helped to bring about a cure though. And just in time, because the Dragon goes on again on Monday -- this time in Hong Kong, at a leading science and technology university.
Let me thank the kind staff at the Mandarin Oriental in Manila where I was staying this past weekend. They are well-trained to look after business guests of all kinds, and in my case, they went beyond duty to make sure I recuperated quickly. They even set me up in a conference room with free Internet access and no AC so that I could comfortably continue writing articles for the Asian Venture Capital Journal--while my eyes watered and I suffered from laryngitis. Well, onward!
This photo, by the way, was taken during a drippy trip from the Manila airport to the city's crazed central business district called Makati. It may be filled with skyscrapers but the street life is something else!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Drama in Taipei

I swear I have seen hundreds more policemen here in Taipei this week than I saw in all of the Beijing Olympics! And many of this high security squad are standing in the lobby of my hotel or right outside. That's because a China high official has come here to discuss the Cross-Straits relations with political leaders, and many locals don't seem to care for that much.
Last night I was awakened at the fine hotel where I'm staying--the Grand Formosa Regent--by the sound of a grenade (?) exploding. Being toughened by years of living in NYC, I wasn't scared. And fortunately no one was hurt. I'm told that the official was trapped inside the hotel for several hours until police calmed down the protestors who want Taiwan to remain independent. See article in International Herald Tribune,
While I try to stay out of politics, one thing for sure is that there is a concerted effort in Taiwan to control the mob noise and to welcome their visitor from the Mainland. Indeed, even the staff (chefs too) at the hotel, which is part of the Four Seasons chain, were standing in welcoming lines applauding Chen's visit and trying to keep him from hearing the protest shouts. Take a look at the photos I hurriedly took in the lobby and just outside the front entrance. Later on, police formed a human shield to keep protestors from doing any harm. And when the protests turned uglier, the staff quickly ushered guests into elevators that quickly shut, to shield them from bloody confrontrations. Service is what separate a five-star hotel from a wanna-be star.
As I leaving the hotel on Monday at 5AM, reception at the club lounge offered me a neatly packed breakfast to take with me on the ride to the airport. I accepted. Now that's service!