Monday, November 30, 2009

Why VCs like their veggies in China

My latest column in Forbes examines why venture capitalists prefer "veggies" in China.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

3 variations on a Hong Kong hotel theme

Silicon Dragon keeps exploring new frontiers and continues to come up with new hotels to recommend--this time for executive travelers on a budget to the jet set on an expense account. The most recent explorations took place in Hong Kong.
Let me start with the low end and work up. The newly opened Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees makes up for its out-of-the way location in Kowloon (close to the old Kai Tak airport) with hospitable service, starting with marketing communicatons manager CeCe Hoang (pictured above, who pinch hits as duty manager as she was when I stayed there. And talk about going beyond the call of duty! She bought my book and asked me to autograph it. Back now to the hotel, which is still working out some kinks, like designer-ish faucets that send water sprays over the top of the equally designer-ish sinks. There's also some raised number lettering on the doors that is so sharply easeled it can cut. These are minor issues in an otherwise sleeky designed hotel, and CeCe assures me they're being fixed. In fact, she's making a list of all the guests' feedback to send to the hotel management. One thing that definitely does not to be fixed is the plentiful breakfast and dinner buffets here at the ground-floor cafe. Some highlights of the hotel include a hideaway terrace bar overlooking an outdoor pool with a waterfall and the well-equipped fitness center. The executive lounge wasn't opened yet when I was there, but work was underway for completion soon. Once the old Hong Kong neigborhood gets more developed--and it will now that the airport has been moved to Lamma Island--the Harbour Plaza will be an excellent affordable choice. Until then, the hotel's shuttle service to the nearest ferry, metro and commercial area will do just fine.
Next stop was the Mira Hotel, also in Kowloon but in the heart of Tsimshatsui. More for the fashion crowd, the Mira is over-the-top with design elements. My first impression wasn't so good when I was put in a smoky-smelling room with no view. But a word with the club lounge staff and presto, I found myself in a smoke-free room with a view of Kowloon Park, where I watched Hong Kong'ers doing morning tai chi. One irk: housekeeping staff who didn't observe do not disturb signs.
Many rooms forget that executives traveling on business need to have comfortable desk chairs, but not the Mira, thankfully. It was fun staying at the Mira and commuting by Star Ferry to business meetings across the harbour.
I am saving the high-end option for last--the recently refurbished landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel. What can top a spacious room with a view of Victoria Harbour, a rendezvous in the Clipper Lounge, or the old-world British flavor of the place--down to afternoon tea or a night-cap of whiskey and cigars at The Chinnery. That's why the place continues to attract the well-heeled from all points of the globe. A check of the spa upstairs showed it hopping with both male and female guests who didn't mind splurging a bit more on themselves. Another great thing about the hotel: the fact that you can access the elevated walkways that lead directly into Hong Kong's finest designer boutiques. Of course, shopping isn't for everyone, and I prefer to use the walkways as a short cut to the in-town flight check-in and the 22-minute express train to the airport. You can't beat Hong Kong for mass-transit infrastructure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Silicon Dragon: Why 3 VC investors still love China

Silicon Dragon: Why VC investors still love China

Why NEA, IDG and WI Harper still love China

Let me count the reasons why venture investors love China. Or better yet, hear it directly from Scott Sandell, David Lam and Hugo Shong. I caught up with them at AVCJ's annual forum.
Here's Hugo Shong of IDG explaining why he's keen on the new RMB funds that are rapidly emerging in China.

And David Lam of WI Harper describing two of his firm's hot cleantech deals in the Mainland.

Here's Scott Sandell of NEA chatting about why he may move his family from Silicon Valley to Shanghai for a year or two. It's not just to advance his career!

I recorded these videos with my Flip camera -- thanks goes to Jim Boettcher of Focus Ventures for introducing the cam to me. Jim was an investor in Flip and made a lot of $ with that deal!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Silicon Dragon: Tell-tale signs of tough times

Silicon Dragon: Tell-tale signs of tough times

Tell-tale signs of tough times

It's been a tough year in the Asian private equity community, and it shows! The AVCJ awards dinner at the China Club was a time to celebrate those who survived and achieved against all odds. But the mood was not very uplighting.
Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley Asia set the tone with a speech about how a V-shaped economic recovery will be hit by four headwinds: the remaining half of the toxic assets still to be written down, the breadth of the downturn globally, an inability of China and India to boost the global economy by making up for a slowdown in U.S. consumer spending, and China's continued reliance on a boom to bust export-led economy. He encouraged those gathered to enjoy the night's food and wine because "it's not going to get any better soon."
On with the show: awards for best in the business, with a few asides. Picking up an award for private equity professional of the year, Jean Eric Salata of Baring Private Equity Asia took a look at his photo displayed on the screen, and couldn't help but remark about his thinning hair line. George Raffini of HSBC, collecting an award for lifetime achievement, also commented on his photo, where he sported brown hair, not the mostly grey today. It could be that photos used were out of date. But I think it's probably just a sign of how tough the business has been over the past 18 months.
Moving on, the venture capital of the year award went to Andy Yan of Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. It's interesting to note that three of the five contenders for this trophy have Softbank in their careers. I think this says a lot about the venture empire that Softbank's maverick investor Masayoshi Son has built.
PS: Dan Schwartz (photo above) did not leave the event empty-handed. Though a nominee for the lifetime achievement award for his "lifetime's work in Asian private equity," the former publisher of AVCJ got a trophy, naturally enough, for publisher of the year. That brought smiles to those gathered, including those insiders (AVCJ publisher Allen Lee, for one) who master-minded the show. It's always good to have some light-hearted fun at these industry events, as Qiming's Gary Rieschel, who was taking bets on the winners, knows all too well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Forbes: Beware Sand Hill Road

In case you missed this, here's my debut Forbes commentary on tech. Here, I comment on how Sand Hill Road is losing its thunder to Chinese tech hotspots--and why. After more than 10 years covering emerging tech trends globally, I'm bound to have formed some opinions and viewpoints. So here goes. Click on
As usual, turn to the Asian Venture Capital Journal, better known as AVCJ,, for my regular news coverage of tech and venture (and some other topics too!).
Happy reading! Rebecca