293: The Growth of Entrepreneurship in Asia (Digital Lives Asia DLA5)

Podcast highlights:

  • 14:30 Simon: it’s interesting to consider how what you see defines the reality you believe in. An exposure to other entrepreneurs early in your life likely gives you the confidence you can do something similar. Digital has changed this so much because we are no longer confined to just looking at the people around us. You can see fascinating stories all over the social media platforms today. Graham: digital then is a great leveler, isn’t it? Look at how women in China can see people around them using these digital platforms. They no longer see the model entrepreneur as someone who is older and male.
  • 39:05 Simon: when it comes to scaling a business, it’s really striking to see the barriers women face in getting access to funding. Graham: in some ways this isn’t surprising given investors tend to back what they know, and what they know is men being successful in business. The challenge in Asia is generational. It will take a generation of entrepreneurs who exit with success and decide to go back in to fund the next crop of people. These will be the investors more likely to back women or non-traditional founders.
  • 44:55 Simon: the theme emerging from our conversation today is there is definitely an energy around entrepreneurship in Asia. A lot of this is just waiting to be activated. What we need to do is find out how to create the cultures to allow this energy to flourish. Graham: it seems the best thing we can do is to tell people’s stories. Help people access inspiration.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 DLA7 – Digital Lives Asia with Graham Brown and Simon Kemp
  • 01:00 Graham: Let’s start with the question of where is the most startup-friendly city in Asia today? What city has the best startup to overall population ratio? — Simon: The obvious answer seems like it would be somewhere in China. But this seems too obvious. Let’s say somewhere in Indonesia. Graham: Actually it is in China.
  • 02:37 Graham: The city with the most startups per head is Zhuhai, which is right next door to Hong Kong and Macao and part of the whole Pearl River Delta ecosystem. The level of startup activity in Zhuhai is 10 times higher than in the city with the highest level of startup activity in the US, Miami, Florida.
  • 05:45 Simon: In looking at entrepreneurship in Asia among millennials, Asia does not seem to be suffering the lack of people trying to create things. Graham: if you look at some of the data coming out of places like the US, you see entrepreneurship as a percentage of the overall population has slipped to something like 5%, which is down from the high a generation ago near 10.5%. The data suggest this generation is the least entrepreneurial generation in the US.
  • 08:55 Graham: thinking about why this is the case several things come to mind. First it’s a lot harder in the West to be an entrepreneur. Also people are generally comfortable, so there’s less of a drive to hustle. Simon: the data also show the burden of student debt in the US. It could also be the people with the drive to be entrepreneurs are finding other ways to scratch that itch so to speak. One way they’re doing this is through the gig economy.
  • 14:30 Simon: it’s interesting to consider how what you see defines the reality you believe in. An exposure to other entrepreneurs early in your life likely gives you the confidence you can do something similar. Digital has changed this so much because we are no longer confined to just looking at the people around us. You can see fascinating stories all over the social media platforms today. Graham: digital then is a great leveler, isn’t it? Look at how women in China can see people around them using these digital platforms. They no longer see the model entrepreneur as someone who is older and male.
  • 24:08 Graham: coming back to the subject of megacities in Asia. Looking back at the Zhuhai statistic we opened the show with, we see in Zhuhai there are 2,800 startups per 100,000 people while in Miami, the figure is 247 startups per 100,000. In Shenzhen, 16% of people there are engaged in entrepreneurship. The comparative figure in the United States is only 3.5%. Imagine living in a place where you’re surrounded by these stories all the time. This is what’s happening right now is Asia. There is this compounding effect where entrepreneurs are inspired by other entrepreneurs and want to go to places where a lot of them are.
  • 27:50 Simon: it’s worth unpacking this a bit. There are two side to entrepreneurship: the opportunity side and the necessity side. The businesses we are celebrating today are those on the opportunity side. This happens when people look at the world around them and spot an idea. Traveling around Asia you see so many more opportunities to improve people’s lives than you do when you travel in the West.
  • 32:28 Graham: look at some more facts here. In data from 2012, the highest ratio of male to female entrepreneurship is the UK. Twice as many men than women are entrepreneurs in the UK. In best ratio for gender parity in entrepreneurship is in developing markets in Asia. There are an equal number of male and female entrepreneurs in developing Asia. Simon: this really helps explain one reason to feel so optimistic when we look at these things. Of course there is still a long way to go in order to improve the chances of female entrepreneurs; but it is heartening to see the progress in Asia.
  • 39:05 Simon: when it comes to scaling a business, it’s really striking to see the barriers women face in getting access to funding. Graham: in some ways this isn’t surprising given investors tend to back what they know, and what they know is men being successful in business. The challenge in Asia is generational. It will take a generation of entrepreneurs who exit with success and decide to go back in to fund the next crop of people. These will be the investors more likely to back women or non-traditional founders.
  • 44:55 Simon: the theme emerging from our conversation today is there is definitely an energy around entrepreneurship in Asia. A lot of this is just waiting to be activated. What we need to do is find out how to create the cultures to allow this energy to flourish. Graham: it seems the best thing we can do is to tell people’s stories. Help people access inspiration.

287: Charles Reed Anderson – IoT in Asia

Podcast highlights:

  • 24:00 You’re a recognized IoT expert. In your own day-to-day life, how wired up are you? Do you use these gadgets? — Just bought first smartwatch. There are drawers full of things that were used once and never used again. One of the best devices for me though was the Muse headband, which is a product designed to track your brain waves. As they developed it though, they turned it into a guided meditation platform that works really well.
  • 29:50 When you look around Asia now, what countries do you find interesting in terms of what’s going on with IoT? — One interesting thing is what’s going on with co-called smart cities. Very few of them have gone from having an infrastructure-centric focus to a citizen-centric focus. Taipei seems to have done better than almost everyone else. They’ve already launched something like 130 proof of concepts all around the city. Maybe 75% of these will fail, but that means 25% will succeed and give other cities new ideas moving forward. Already Taipei has some cool autonomous bus projects. This year they’re launching a shared scooter scheme. The next logical path you will see is where cities focus on making the smart city concept viable for businesses. Not everyone will be able to jump down the path like Taipei.
  • 50:20 How would one compare IoT in Asia to the rest of the world right now? Is it even possible to do this? — Asia is by far the biggest market for IoT in the future. There is a long tail there. It’s a fascinating market and the level of innovation coming out of China right now is just amazing. Keep an eye on India over the next 24 months. Tata is coming out with systems at price points that will allow developing markets to get into the game. This is what we need to see.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Charles Reed Anderson, founder Charles Reed Anderson & Associates, to ATP Stories with host Graham D Brown.
  • 00:55 You are the IoT person in Asia. What gets you excited? What do we need to know about IoT in Asia now? — One product is a new children’s smartwatch from Omate, which is based in Shenzhen. What’s cool is they’ve partnered with Tata Communications to make it with an eSIM. This will give Omate basically global market access on the back of Tata’s relationships. The eSIM allows the device to connect to almost any network.
  • 06:45 So what does this mean for telecoms? — Certainly smart operators will try and create business models to engage this new revenue stream. It could mean handset manufacturers are able to bypass local telecom operators. Imagine a Google or Amazon, with an eSIM, they could launch a new product globally and not have to negotiate with telecom companies in every market they want to enter. Laptop manufacturers are launching new models with eSIMs included.
  • 10:45 What devices do you really see eSIMs making a big impact on? — One thing about eSIMs is they will empower new startups who have good ideas. With the Omate watch, having the relationship with Tata means the watch’s communications are secured in a way that will help companies get past regulators worried about safety and privacy when it comes to products for children. Also in healthcare and medical tech devices where secure connectivity is critical.
  • 18:50 What are some of the areas where you see more of the medical tech coming through? Where will this make an impact? — In the last five years, there have a been several interesting things. Samsung was doing R&D on a device with a bunch of different medical sensors and testing out which ones were going to work and how to build a platform around it. Now you also see companies like Fitbit not just building devices, but actually bringing in people from the healthcare industry to help advise them on what to do with the data they’re generating from users.
  • 24:00 You’re a recognized IoT expert. In your own day-to-day life, how wired up are you? Do you use these gadgets? — Just bought first smartwatch. There are drawers full of things that were used once and never used again. One of the best devices for me though was the Muse headband, which is a product designed to track your brain waves. As they developed it though, they turned it into a guided meditation platform that works really well.
  • 29:50 When you look around Asia now, what countries do you find interesting in terms of what’s going on with IoT? — One interesting thing is what’s going on with co-called smart cities. Very few of them have gone from having an infrastructure-centric focus to a citizen-centric focus. Taipei seems to have done better than almost everyone else. They’ve already launched something like 130 proof of concepts all around the city. Maybe 75% of these will fail, but that means 25% will succeed and give other cities new ideas moving forward. Already Taipei has some cool autonomous bus projects. This year they’re launching a shared scooter scheme. The next logical path you will see is where cities focus on making the smart city concept viable for businesses. Not everyone will be able to jump down the path like Taipei.
  • 46:10 What was the recipe for success in Taipei? Why did things work there? — It’s a combination of factors. There are a lot of very good hardware manufacturers there. Lots of IoT vendors are coming out of there already. The city also has excellent infrastructure. It’s a good business environment where lots of MNCs have big centers there.
  • 50:20 How would one compare IoT in Asia to the rest of the world right now? Is it even possible to do this? — Asia is by far the biggest market for IoT in the future. There is a long tail there. It’s a fascinating market and the level of innovation coming out of China right now is just amazing. Keep an eye on India over the next 24 months. Tata is coming out with systems at price points that will allow developing markets to get into the game. This is what we need to see.

283: Wei Qing Jen from Vybes (PitchDeck Asia)

Podcast highlights:

  • 00:45 Let’s talk about Vybes. What is it and what are you doing there? — Vybes is a platform for millions of influencers to sell goods and services they create directly to their followers. We are disrupting the influencer market in a big way, allowing influencers to bypass brands and sell directly to their followers.
  • 10:03 Are there people or products that work really well on this type of platform? — We launched in April, 2018 and we’re still learning. It’s possible though to identify two types of people for whom this works well: 1) people with very niche products, and 2) people who really have superfans that will just buy anything.
  • 30:42 As a marketer myself, I am interested in what you call the K-factor. Can you explain what this is? — The K-factor is how many additional users does a new user bring onto the platform? If each user brings on an additional user, the K-factor is 1. If you’re interested, you should look into this as there’s a lot of information out there. What we want to do is figure out how to use technology to incentivize people to use our platform without us having to pay for them.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 PIT2 – The Pitch with Graham D. Brown and Wei Qing Jen from Vybes.
  • 00:45 Let’s talk about Vybes. What is it and what are you doing there? — Vybes is a platform for millions of influencers to sell goods and services they create directly to their followers. We are disrupting the influencer market in a big way, allowing influencers to bypass brands and sell directly to their followers.
  • 02:45 How can you replicate the successes of the leading influencers for the less well-known? — We are talking about people with more than 10,000 followers on Instagram. In the future we plan to look at other platforms. So we are already talking about people with a significant following, but who lack the team of professionals enjoyed by the most influential people in this space.
  • 05:25 What’s the barrier these people confront now? Why are they unable to monetize their influence? — Great question. My personal view is people don’t really understand their personal brand and what makes them different. Vybes helps by providing in part education and examples for people to follow. We also use technology to help by providing data analytics and helping people increase their following.
  • 07:50 In the same way Facebook has democratized advertising, you are democratizing the model for influencers. Is this a good characterization? — Absolutely yes, we are really trying to help our users not be bound to selling other people’s product but instead market their own, unique things. We are liberating both influencers and users.
  • 10:03 Are there people or products that work really well on this type of platform? — We launched in April, 2018 and we’re still learning. It’s possible though to identify two types of people for whom this works well: 1) people with very niche products, and 2) people who really have superfans that will just buy anything.
  • 15:00 Let’s talk a little bit about your background. Can you tell us a little about this? — Grew up in Singapore, went to the US for college. Did undergraduate work at Stanford and then went to Harvard for Graduate School. Lived in New York City after that before moving to China for six years; started first company there.
  • 18:40 With Vybes are you focused just on Singapore? — Right now because we’re based in Singapore, we’re focused there for the first launch. Once we test and make sure we’re happy we plan to expand into other markets.
  • 20:00 You could have set up in the United States and maybe that would have been easier for you. Can you tell us why you chose Singapore? — Personally it felt like the right time for me to come back. One thing to consider though is that because we are in the digital space, it almost doesn’t matter where we’re located.
  • 23:13 Can you talk about your funding and where you are in that process right now? — Last year we raised our seed round for almost a million dollars and we are likely to be raising another, larger round later this year. If you’re interested, reach out at [email protected].
  • 24:30 What is the purpose of this funding round for you? — We have two purposes: 1) to support our existing team, and 2) to prime the pump for growing the company.
  • 30:42 As a marketer myself, I am interested in what you call the K-factor. Can you explain what this is? — The K-factor is how many additional users does a new user bring onto the platform? If each user brings on an additional user, the K-factor is 1. If you’re interested, you should look into this as there’s a lot of information out there. What we want to do is figure out how to use technology to incentivize people to use our platform without us having to pay for them.

281: Quantifying China’s Appeal to the Next Generation of Talent with Andrea Myles, the #ChinaGeek (Asia Matters)

Podcast highlights:

  • 06:35 According to data from the Modern Language Association (MLA) in the United States, since 2016 the number of students at US universities studying Chinese in any form has gone down. How can we explain this given the relevance of China at the moment? — In Australia the pattern is similar. Historical legacy is part of the reason, there is a shortage of qualified Mandarin teachers. This helps explain the lag in students studying Mandarin. So there are systemic factors at play too and not just purely political ones.
  • 25:48 Tell us a bit about your day job focusing on millennials in China. What’s that about? — CEO and co-found of the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP). We try to bridge the gap between Chinese and Australian innovators by running an incubator of sorts which puts 50 Chinese and 50 Australians into a 100 day learning program. We challenge them to build the next Uber, or the next Didi. We’ve had 300 people come through the program so far. It’s really cool to see how diversity powers new insights. Each cohort is completely different; but you see commonalities in they all have a curious mindset and a desire to engage digitally.
  • 40:00 In China right now how are young people approaching entrepreneurialism? — It’s important to remember there is not simply one type of Chinese millennial, and things differ a lot depending on geography, class, and even gender. Overall there is a shift where people no longer see government jobs as the ticket. There is still a long way to go before things really change, but you see signs it’s beginning.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Andrea Myles, the #ChinaGeek, also co-founder and CEO of the China Australia Millennial Project to Asia Matters with host Graham Brown.
  • 01:00 How did you earn the moniker #ChinaGeek? — It’s completely self-titled. The story starts in 2002 in New South Wales, Australia. Had never been overseas, so went off to China and backpacked across the country for three months…Beijing to Kashgar. Before this had very little China exposure; didn’t speak Mandarin at all. This ended up being the trip of a lifetime considering that since then have gotten two Master’s Degrees in Mandarin studies.
  • 06:35 According to data from the Modern Language Association (MLA) in the United States, since 2016 the number of students at US universities studying Chinese in any form has gone down. How can we explain this given the relevance of China at the moment? — In Australia the pattern is similar. Historical legacy is part of the reason, there is a shortage of qualified Mandarin teachers. This helps explain the lag in students studying Mandarin. So there are systemic factors at play too and not just purely political ones.
  • 09:50 Are universities prepared today to nurture the talent of students who are China-curious? — Universities are academic institutions and they often miss the practical element of studying a language. Take textbooks as an example, these tend to be extremely boring and fail to truly show what it’s like to use Chinese in China. What’s needed is to find ways to blend the experiences of Chinese international students with language learners on campus so everyone can benefit from the exposure this generates.
  • 15:15 What’s it like talking to people in Australia about your experiences in China? — Mostly people’s reaction when you try to explain modern China and what’s going on is they say they didn’t realize it was like that. China is endlessly fascinating. Consider there are 415 million millennials in China, if they were a nation unto themselves, they would be the world’s third largest and they would be the most digitally engaged. In the next ten years the impact of this will be felt in the West.
  • 22:30 Is there an appetite in China for non-native Chinese key opinion leaders (KOLs)? — There is. It’s certainly seen as something different versus being a Chinese born and bread KOL. By the time students in primary school today enter their prime influencing years in say 10 to 20 years time, we will see hundreds of Chinese-speaking foreigners working as KOLs. Right now the number is only a handful.
  • 25:48 Tell us a bit about your day job focusing on millennials in China. What’s that about? — CEO and co-found of the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP). We try to bridge the gap between Chinese and Australian innovators by running an incubator of sorts which puts 50 Chinese and 50 Australians into a 100 day learning program. We challenge them to build the next Uber, or the next Didi. We’ve had 300 people come through the program so far. It’s really cool to see how diversity powers new insights. Each cohort is completely different; but you see commonalities in they all have a curious mindset and a desire to engage digitally.
  • 32:40 When you put these kids together, what things do they tend to take away from each other? — The Australians tend to have difficulty identifying what leadership looks like when Australians and Chinese equally comprise the team. Also in Australia, we tend to mistake confidence for competence. The future of Chinese innovation is cross-border; but it’s still clear it takes work to convince entrepreneurs in the West the opportunities in China are real and achievable.
  • 40:00 In China right now how are young people approaching entrepreneurialism? — It’s important to remember there is not simply one type of Chinese millennial, and things differ a lot depending on geography, class, and even gender. Overall there is a shift where people no longer see government jobs as the ticket. There is still a long way to go before things really change, but you see signs it’s beginning.
  • 44:40 Why does it seem there are so many more female entrepreneurs in China than anywhere else in the world? — It could be there are just more women in professions in China. When doing events in China, at least 40% of people in attendance will be women. This really contrasts to what you see in Western countries. This doesn’t mean there aren’t significant barriers faced by women in China and any woman who is successful there deserves all the praise in the world.

275: Bob Gallagher — Appsynth

Podcast highlights:

  • 04:18 Earlier this year, you picked up an award in Singapore. Tell us a little bit about that. — We picked up two awards from Campaign Asia-Pacific. Campaign Asia-Pacific is basically the de facto agency world magazine in the region. It was really good recognition for us. Now it’s onward and upwards!
  • 26:00 Do you see anything emerging in Thailand on the mobile front that will catch on in the rest of the world? — On the consumption side, Thailand is leading in terms of time spent on mobile. We’re talking 4-5 hours a day. There is also mobile payment via QR codes, which are very big here. We see the drive to a cashless society. These are things you would notice in Thailand, people scanning people’s QR codes and transferring money for products and services very easily.
  • 44:10 So now you’re 8 years into the story of Appsynth. Where do things go from here? — For us it’s a careful balancing act in terms of having the people we need versus having a situation where work dries up and we can no longer support the number of people we have. Maybe we could expand to 100 people, be we’ll have to see. We also want to look at growing regionally and also in Europe and the US. One effort we’ve engaged in is diversifying the nationalities of our employees. As we move forward we need to continue to figure out how to change our structure to support our growth.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Bob Gallagher, Managing Director and Founder of Appsynth to ATP Stories with Graham Brown.
  • 00:40 You set up Appsynth in 2010, correct? — Yes, that’s correct. Coming up on 10 years in Thailand with 8 of those years running Appsynth. We have over 50 people working for us now and have seen a steady stream of growth in this regard.
  • 01:40 So your background was originally in music, wasn’t it? — Yep. Started working in mobile 12 years ago for a mobile music distributor and even before that running a record label. Came to Thailand first at age 18 and saw the potential in the markets there.
  • 04:18 Earlier this year, you picked up an award in Singapore. Tell us a little bit about that. — We picked up two awards from Campaign Asia-Pacific. Campaign Asia-Pacific is basically the de facto agency world magazine in the region. It was really good recognition for us. Now it’s onward and upwards!
  • 07:48 These awards must help in terms of recruitment. Can you talk a little about that? — We’ve probably hired a bit more than 15 recruits in the past year, which is a lot. The award adds to the prestige of working with a company like ours. While we’re growing, we’ve been focusing on things like company culture and creating an environment where people want to come but also then want to stay.
  • 10:35 When you look at other companies, who do you admire in terms of getting corporate culture correct? — There are many different role models in this regard. There’s no one way to run a business. But to name a few, there’s Spotify. Of course there are other inspirations from different fields. Just take a look at who are the best software teams in the world and how do they operate. One benefit we have in terms of hiring people is the ability to tell candidates they will be able to work on many different projects given that we’re not such a big company. We don’t have teams devoted just to narrow features or products.
  • 15:15 Can you describe a bit about how you capture the sort of software engineer who wants to go out and make a difference in the world? — This is really a reflection on how we go about business development and being selective in terms of who we work with and what sorts of things we take on. There’s a lot of work out there, but we need to find things that are exciting and are going to be used by millions of people. This gets people motivated.
  • 20:30 You’ve recently published some data about working in Thailand and the changes taking place there. Can you help us understand some of these trends? — We clearly see how hard people work in Thailand. Certainly in technology and knowledge work, people work very hard here. The pace of work has been increasing here and we expect this to continue.
  • 23:50 In Thailand you have a hard-working population, and a young population very connected on social media. What sorts of opportunities does this create for a company like Appsynth? — This is a point we like to highlight because Thailand really is at the forefront for mobile usage and mobile shopping. It’s not in places like the US, it’s here in Thailand.
  • 26:00 Do you see anything emerging in Thailand on the mobile front that will catch on in the rest of the world? — On the consumption side, Thailand is leading in terms of time spent on mobile. We’re talking 4-5 hours a day. There is also mobile payment via QR codes, which are very big here. We see the drive to a cashless society. These are things you would notice in Thailand, people scanning people’s QR codes and transferring money for products and services very easily.
  • 35:20 What sorts of other things are you experimenting with there in terms of mobile payments and money transfer? — The app we produced for 7-Eleven here in Thailand has a feature where parents can top up their children’s accounts and eliminate the need for those kids to carry cash. This helps parents better control where and how their kids can spend money too. Another feature you see is loyalty tracking, which can be used to offer discounts and enticements to consumers.
  • 36:45 Do you think Thailand will be a leader in terms of being a cashless society? — Yes, I think so. People have really embraced this new QR-based payment model. Maybe Thailand won’t be the first country to go cashless, but it will certainly be one of the first.
  • 37:45 What is the mobile music scene in Thailand right now? — People here obviously love music and mobile, and in fact Spotify as the big player in this space was actually a bit late to come to Thailand. There are other players here including well-established local labels who are getting into mobile music.
  • 39:50 Do you see a lot of Chinese investment coming into places like Thailand? Are there Chinese companies coming in and making big investments? — Yes, definitely. There’s pros and cons of course. We’ve seen some cases were Chinese investment comes in and ends up moving development jobs back to China where some Thai developers simply don’t want to move for whatever reason. This has opened up new talent avenues for the companies that remain. This is what happened, for example, at Lazada.
  • 44:10 So now you’re 8 years into the story of Appsynth. Where do things go from here? — For us it’s a careful balancing act in terms of having the people we need versus having a situation where work dries up and we can no longer support the number of people we have. Maybe we could expand to 100 people, be we’ll have to see. We also want to look at growing regionally and also in Europe and the US. One effort we’ve engaged in is diversifying the nationalities of our employees. As we move forward we need to continue to figure out how to change our structure to support our growth.

269: Pieter Franken – Safecast, Shinsei Bank, MIT & Monex Group

Podcast highlights:

  • 02:10 You came to Japan to work for Panasonic Corp in 1989. What was Japan like back then? — This was just after the real estate bubble started to burst. Prior to that Japan always felt like an endless party. In 1989 the hangover was starting. It was a special time. You find Japanese companies all have their own stories. They are not all the same.
  • 28:00 You were actually involved in the aftermath of what was the largest corporate failure in Japanese history. Tell us a little bit about that. — You’re talking about The Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, which went bankrupt in 1998. I joined the bank that emerged from this in 2000, Shinsei Bank. My interests were in rebuilding the bank from a technical / operational standpoint. At that time, Japanese banking technology in services was lagging. We really started to innovate to make Shinsei Bank a leader in banking tech.
  • 43:23 When you look at FinTech innovation in Japan today, there seems to be a lot going on. How has this happened? Who is driving it? — First, it’s important to consider that FinTech is a very broad term, which at it’s core means bringing into the world of finance new digital technologies, new companies, and new innovative concepts. In Japan now there is a realization the central places for finance in Asia are in Singapore and Hong Kong, they are not in Tokyo. There’s a growing realization banks need to innovate more.

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 Welcome Pieter Franklin to Asia Tech Podcast Stories.
  • 02:10 You came to Japan to work for Panasonic Corp in 1989. What was Japan like back then? — This was just after the real estate bubble started to burst. Prior to that Japan always felt like an endless party. In 1989 the hangover was starting. It was a special time. You find Japanese companies all have their own stories. They are not all the same.
  • 06:43 How did it feel being a Westerner there at that time? — It was an eye-opening experience to see how things could be done differently. Companies could be organized in different ways. At that time, Japan was the cutting edge place for IT in the world.
  • 09:50 Let’s talk about Safecast. You helped found Safecast quite soon after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Japan in 2011. Tell us about that. — You can look back at photos of that time and the work we did at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. It was from that experience we saw the need for more transparency in these types of events. We found, for example, the measurements of dispersed radiation issued by authorities were deceptive at best. Our idea was to give people the ability to measure radiation on their own.
  • 18:18 When you look back, that earthquake was the [4th most powerful ever recorded – ed.]. Was there really anything that could have been done to prepare for it? — This is the fundamental question. My own view is that the consequences from a disaster like this are very very large, but the odds the disaster will happen are very very small. Those odds are not zero, however. The question for us is whether we should do something if the consequences when something goes wrong are very very big? What one observes is people are not good at understanding the dangers when the consequences could be this severe.
  • 22:50 Another area where this thinking seems relevant is in certain tech fields, like AI for example. When you look at these projects, do you worry about the implications of things going wrong? — Of course. We should worry about what might happen when things go wrong. So Facebook, electric cars, reusable rockets, these things have clear potential benefits; but we have seen how the same technology can be used as a weapon. That’s the dilemma of progress.
  • 28:00 You were actually involved in the aftermath of what was the largest corporate failure in Japanese history. Tell us a little bit about that. — You’re talking about The Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, which went bankrupt in 1998. I joined the bank that emerged from this in 2000, Shinsei Bank. My interests were in rebuilding the bank from a technical / operational standpoint. At that time, Japanese banking technology in services was lagging. We really started to innovate to make Shinsei Bank a leader in banking tech.
  • 35:05 You talked about things you helped innovate, like 24-hour ATMs. To us here in 2018, these do not seem very significant; but back then they had a real impact. — Right. In Japan, ATMs were only open when the bank was open. Imagine if this were the case today. There were certain challenges to innovating in the banking sphere. For example, when the bank closes, you have to take all the cash and put it in the vault. When you open the bank, you have to take the money out of the vault. So we really had to bring a process engineering mindset to these design challenges.
  • 43:23 When you look at FinTech innovation in Japan today, there seems to be a lot going on. How has this happened? Who is driving it? — First, it’s important to consider that FinTech is a very broad term, which at it’s core means bringing into the world of finance new digital technologies, new companies, and new innovative concepts. In Japan now there is a realization the central places for finance in Asia are in Singapore and Hong Kong, they are not in Tokyo. There’s a growing realization banks need to innovate more.
  • 49:00 What is the regulatory environment like in Japan? — The government in Japan made the wise decision to put everyone with something to say about what happens in the financial world into one place. They call it the Financial Services Agency and this has helped bring clarity to the market. It has also allowed the government to be more nimble in regulation, especially as new technologies come online.
  • 52:45 Do you ever think about what drives you? — You have to think about this. For me it’s building things and the passion that comes from building new things. You have to find ways to build where you can take risks while not fundamentally endangering the company or markets if something goes wrong. This is the challenge.

263: NishHosts Show – IN THE MAKING Intro (NSH1)

Podcast highlights:

  • 08:05 Let’s talk about what this podcast is going to be about? — That’s the concern I have with the word ‘start-up’. People think it’s this independent entity but essentially ‘starting-up’ is in any context. In a new job or a new situation. Even though I’ve been in China for 13 years, every couple of months I feel I am ‘starting-up’, starting all over.
  • 09:53 You have to step up. Don’t you? This is an important part of it. One thing inspiring about your story Nishtha and am sure people who know you know how you step up. It’s a powerful skill to have. Does it come naturally to Asians? — I believe it is part upbringing, part DNA, part also how you build that mindset. It’s like muscle memory. Practice and build that muscle of not giving up, that muscle of resilience.
  • 09:53 And what about failures? I do believe our industry is talking too much about successes and get inspired by success stories but who doesn’t fail or who doesn’t fall? That’s an important part of in the making which people need to hear.
  • 21:45 What qualities are you looking for in people you want to bring on the show? — One thing is very close to my heart, my passion and I believe many people with starting-up mind set have. It’s about committing to the uncomfortable. People with that mindset are more open to accepting that things might not go exactly the way it is, they are in the making. On a mission to create things for the benefit of others.
  • 27:40 Isn’t it the case so many of these people don’t always recognize how what they’re doing is amazing? — Yes, very much so. Everybody has different strengths. It’s not just about inspiring others, it’s about being able to help. I am on a mission to re-look at the way we are learning in our industry. To help people up their skills and up their game. That’s what we’re going to do here on In the Making. Like this one exercise I do – ‘burst the balloon’ – it works

Podcast notes:

  • NOTE: This podcast contains explicit language.
  • 00:05 NSH1 – NishHosts Series Episode 1 – ‘In The Making’ with Nishtha Mehta
  • 01:43 Tell us about your journey. What happened when you moved to Shanghai? — I wanted to do something new and get out of my comfort zone. I was so confident that i’ll leave one job in India and land another here when i come. But soon that confidence was shattered! I had a “reality check” within the first few months. A failure let’s say.
  • 04:10 Going through the process of moving to China, what was that like while you were doing it? — I used to cry every single day for three weeks. Simple things like finding vegetarian food was a nightmare. I spoke zero Chinese. It was truly starting from scratch…but that was the opportunity!
  • 12:23 “You have to learn how to fall, you have to learn how to do a safety roll too. How to slide on your knees, how to protect yourself, so you can get up and try again”
  • 08:05 What do you want to do here with ‘In the Making’ in the coming episodes? — In the Making NishHosts series hopes to cover Asian Leaders, entrepreneurs, not just in start-ups but also from the Corporate world, tech companies. Untold stories. What they built is not a job done, it’s very much In the Making. We often talk about what they’ve built. But it continues. The person is in the making, the product is in the making, the service is in the making. What were the infliction points in this journey, how they made decisions and what’s coming up next from them. Give people a voice and mobilize the community to support one another.
  • 15:03 Do people in large corporate environments get this idea of still being in the making? Or do they just see a bunch of check-boxes with items accomplished and they’re on to the next one? — Things are changing fast. Especially in China, the speed is unprecedented. Corporate-types are quite nimble. Atleast the people i work with – change is happening. There are many many different approaches in the making.
  • 16:27 One of the things I do with CollabCentral, the consulting I run. It’s not a company as such. It’s a mindset. It’s a way of working. Just because you are in marketing department, doesn’t mean you can’t be part of R&D new product development. Or if you are working with X Company, you can’t lend your ideas to Y company. I am on a mission to gather more people in the network to work in an open source manner. Plug & Play.
  • 17:47 What is it like when you bring people together from across a value chain? Many times these people have never worked together. — On the inside, people often may not know each other but they are working in broadly similar ways. The challenge is when you bring in external actors. The key is to make your partners think the ideas are their own.
  • 28:24 What exercise do you do to to stay in the game and committing to the uncomfortable? — I can share one example. I call it ‘Burst the Balloon’ exercise. It sounds philosophical but it works! You should start with bursting the full blown balloon. Don’t let it fizzle out. Burst the balloon. Realise that things are perfect but it shouldn’t stay perfect. Don’t stay in comfort zone. We are here on a mission to help others up their game, up their skills.
  • 29:28 — Another exercise I do by committing to the uncomfortable – is something called as ‘Buddying up with the Uncomfortable’. What I’ve learnt is that don’t just go and talk to experts. Find someone who’s also uncomfortable with that one thing you are but wants to learn or do or up the skills in that area.
  • 30:29 — Another one important which I highly recommend – ‘Volunteer your time with a value exchange’. we go and spend time, offering my skills of helping a startup with their marketing etc, helping pro bono; but in exchange we ask them to let us be part of their journey, let’s say a new tech. That exercise is an important part of up skilling and staying fresh.
  • 33:28 — Wrapping up. Calling out to the network here. What In the Making will cover in the future — The utter pains. The delicious gains. The smart decision making choices – from some very interesting entrepreneurs, Corporate Intrapreneurs, Hustlers. How they are helping other people up their game, up their skills. And how they are also coming out of failures – which will be an important part of In the Making. Committing to the uncomfortable. And what’s coming up next – In the making from them. Stay tuned! Or write to Nishtha with anyone to recco.

261: Edward Tse (Founders in Asia FIA5)

Podcast highlights:

  • 13:55 Was it from BGC that Edward moved to start Gao Feng Advisory Company? Also, what was the motivating factor for Edward to decide to start his own consulting firm?
  • 20:25 At the core of it, what is the difference between the traditional way of thinking and the “China way” of thinking?
  • 37:25 What sort of channels does Edward use to distribute that thought leadership and get their brand out there? Also, does Edward identify as the brand? Is Edward effectively Gao Feng?

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 FIA5 – Founders in Asia with Jodie Collins
  • 00:50 Welcome Edward Tse – Founder & CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Company – to Founders in Asia
  • 02:35 Edward got recruited by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to run their China business in Shanghai in 1992 – pioneering the consulting business which was nascent then in China
  • 08:50 What were the things that Edward learned from working with Chinese entrepreneurs?
  • 13:55 Was it from BGC that Edward moved to start Gao Feng Advisory Company? Also, what was the motivating factor for Edward to decide to start his own consulting firm?
  • 20:25 At the core of it, what is the difference between the traditional way of thinking and the “China way” of thinking?
  • 28:55 How does Edward see this “China way” of thinking gain traction in other markets across Asia?
  • 31:10 Edward talks about his journey of starting his own consulting firm Gao Feng Advisory Company – what challenges have Edward faced and what are the lessons that he can share with other people?
  • 37:25 What sort of channels does Edward use to distribute that thought leadership and get their brand out there? Also, does Edward identify as the brand? Is Edward effectively Gao Feng?
  • 39:30 Edward offers tips for other founders on how they can continue to build their media presence
  • 43:10 Has Edward thought of something which his company wants to go into that’s outside of the management consulting sphere?

260: Michael Bloomberg On-board for the Asian Century? (Asia Matters)

Podcast highlights:

  • 02:42 Michael Bloomberg’s vision for an Asian Davos
  • 19:56 Asia Tech Podcast gets a new studio in Singapore
  • 31:05 Podcasting and the future of branding
  • 55:15 Asia Tech Podcast’s new internship opportunity

Podcast notes:

  • Note: This podcast contains explicit language
  • 00:05 ATP650 – Asia Matters with Graham Brown
  • 02:42 Michael R. Bloomberg, American businessman and philanthropist, wants to create a rival to the Davos-based World Economic Forum that will focus on Asia and the Asian Century. The inaugural session will take place this November, 2018 in Beijing. — This is certainly a way to acknowledge China’s lead in the global ecosystem.
  • 07:50 Data from the #AsiaMatters Report published this year bolsters the case for Bloomberg’s vision. Key takeaways include Asia is a US$27 trillion economy. This is 50% bigger than either the US or the EU. By 2030, the Asian middle classes are expected to grow to 3.2 billion people — an enormous market potential!
  • 12:09 The Asia Matters Report talks about four steps that will bring about the Asian Century. 1) The demographic advantage that allowed for low-cost manufacturing production. 2) Capital reinvestment that helped build the Asian middle class and a skills, talent, wealth, and innovation boom, which is now allowing for 3) an increasing innovation advantage (AI, autonomous vehicles, etc). Asia is taking the lead in innovation. Finally, 4) Asia will eventually become the global hegemon and the “default option” for business.
  • 17:12 The Asia Matters Institute was created as a forum to help foster these connection. The goal was helping experts outside Asia find their counterparts in the region, and also to help people in Asia better find and communicate. If you are a speacalist with something to offer, get in touch!
  • 19:56 Exciting news from Singapore as Asia Tech Podcast opens its own studio! Special thanks to the team at Platform E for making this possible!
  • 22:18 Platform E is a co-working space, incubator, accelerator, and community. Shout-out to Rina Neoh and Abdul Malik! They get things done!
  • 26:06 Thunder and lightening shenanigans!
  • 26:25 On networking. There are two types of people: energy-takers and net energy-givers. Find the energy-givers and work with them!
  • 31:05 Why podcasting is the future of personal branding. Conferences and traditional networking events almost never give you information beyond what’s available on someone’s website. Nothing “wow’s” us at those things. Podcasting, on the other hand, brings out the human element. That’s what people want!
  • 38:08 Revealing your vulnerability and humanizing yourself to others is one of the most effective ways to get ahead. Show that you have the confidence to take the arrows of criticism. Blaze the trail! Give people the Oprah moment! People want to know about you!
  • 43:10 The vision for Asia Tech Podcast is to create the platform for those human conversations…to give that voice to the Asian tech ecosystem. The new studio will really help to make live radio shows…to make real conversations!
  • 52:28 For all the talk about the digital world being the future, you can’t fake a real, human conversation. This is what makes podcasts. And this is what will make the Asian Century. There are countless stories waiting to be told! That’s what we’re going to do here on Asia Tech Podcast.
  • 55:15 If this sounds like your passion, apply to be our intern. Come be a part of the Asian Century!

257: Does America’s Auto Future Lie in China? (Cross Border Kyle KYL5)

Podcast highlights:

  • 09:35 How do Asian startups go on the “pitch” side of things? The Valley does very well on the story side. In Asia, there is an overemphasis on technology and not so much in the story but this has changed dramatically over the past year
  • 17:05 Coming from “Motor City” Detroit, Michigan, Kyle touches on the innovations in the automotive industry of China – Shanghai Auto City
  • 31:45 An auto industry that’s starting to grow and see the pathway for innovation and the need to work with startups and to work on a global scale like the case of Oakland County in Michigan taking 300 companies over to China

Podcast notes:

  • 00:05 KYL5 – Cross Border Kyle with Kyle Ellicott
  • 00:15 Graham and Kyle last saw each other in Hong Kong where they got to go on a tour
  • 03:05 Kyle spoke at the Startup Launchpad Conference by Global Sources. What did Kyle take away from having seen those Southeast Asian and Asian startups?
  • 06:10 Was there a lot of hardware startups there? Yomee – The World’s First Automatic Yogurt Maker. Kyle says “Lessons are being learned, companies are educating themselves on what works and what doesn’t, and are starting to see what the market needs are versus just building to build”
  • 09:35 How do Asian startups go on the “pitch” side of things? The Valley does very well on the story side. In Asia, there is an overemphasis on technology and not so much in the story but this has changed dramatically over the past year
  • 14:15 Did Kyle see anything interesting on the AI and deep tech startups side of things?
  • 17:05 Coming from “Motor City” Detroit, Michigan, Kyle touches on the innovations in the automotive industry of China – Shanghai Auto City
  • 23:40 Michigan and Chinese Automotive industries working together – was there a scenario where it’s too regulated to test some kind of tech in the US that they go to China and test it right out of the factory gate?
  • 26:05 How did the guys in Michigan take it when people from China went there and talked about technology and China itself?
  • 28:45 According to John Waraniak, Detroit has been so crushed that all of the traditional infrastructure was gone – did this have an effect on the Michigan people being open in the conversation with people from China?
  • 31:45 An auto industry that’s starting to grow and see the pathway for innovation and the need to work with startups and to work on a global scale like the case of Oakland County in Michigan taking 300 companies over to China
  • 33:10 The governor of Michigan has made 8 trips to China which is the most of any previous governor – which other cities out there are doing this?
  • 35:05 “Sometimes, something gets so broken that the only option is to start again” like the Michigan auto industry but you see this in Asia as well like Hong Kong and Vietnam
  • 39:35 Be open-minded as a business owner, as an innovator, as an executive, or as a consumer today and in the future and incredible things will come in the future because of that
  • 40:40 Check out crossborderkyle.com for podcast episodes and other unique content