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hot town part deux

Matt Marshall gives some love to Shanghai in critiquing a Business 2.0 article on Fred Wilson at USV:

Wilson, of course, is different from most Valley VCs in ways too numerous to count -- starting with the fact that he wouldn't trade his offices off Union Square for digs on Sand Hill Road for all the tea in China. At almost any other moment in high-tech history, being in New York was a distinct disadvantage for a VC; it was like being an arbitrageur in Kansas rather than on Wall Street. But if Wilson is right -- and I think he is -- that media, marketing, and finance will be among the industries most affected by Web 2.0, he's better off exactly where he is. As tech itself recedes from view and its effects take center stage, the Valley may prove to be the nosebleed section, and New York the ringside seat.

Cute ending, but even if the thesis is on, we can think of a dozen other, perhaps even better, ringside seats, beginning with LA and Shanghai.

But maybe the real message of applied technologies and the Web 2.0 is that ringside seats won't be about geography at all. Innovation and investment are happening all around the world. And the thing that excites me is that they're not just happening in localized ways around the world (two local VCs fund a start-up down the highway), but that they're happening across geographies (a few entrepreneurial engineers start a virtual company spread out across the continent, or VCs from one country contribute to the growth of startups from another and provide a product to the entire world).

So Shanghai is a hot town, in more ways than one, and there will always be value in human, face to face interactions, but what Shanghai represents to me is a new city, a new economy, a new culture that is being created after the "core technology" innovations of the last 20 years. A place where the infrastructure for intellectual productivity and interconnectivity is in many cases a given.

In other words, we may have expats here, but how different are the expats of today with email, IM, VOIP, global express delivery and direct flights from Shanghai to San Francisco that allow us to land before we left? How different are the business models when capital (human and otherwise) can be accessed from anywhere?

This is the primordial soup into which energy and money are flowing in and innovation and value are flowing out. And this is one of the reasons why I love being when I am even more than I love being where I am.

June 30, 2005 at 09:55 AM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

hot town

Summer is upon us, and when I write "upon us," I mean, up on us. The temperatures are soaring to a heat index of 44 degrees today [110 F], air conditioning is spiking energy usage to unstable levels, and the subways are filled with hot, sticky, sweaty people. I don't know if the trains are more crowded or they just feel more crowded, but they definitely feel more crowded.

But despite making us all sluggish with this oppressive heat, Shanghai is offering up treats to keep us going. Two nights ago, Angie and I had a great, healthy, clean-tasting dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant. We met up with a couple of new friends and their two lovely children. We got all kinds of parenting tips, just in case; and though the meat was fake, the good times were not.

Last night, we went to the other end of the spectrum and enjoyed a visit to China's first Burger King. Bad layout, bad service, but friendly smiles and familiar tastes. It was a good cap to an evening started with friends at Batman Begins. If it sounds like we were back in suburban Michigan, it wasn't too far from that. Except for thousands of miles and the movie play-by-play and commentary in Shanghainese behind us ["Here he comes! He's back, he's back!"].

But both ended with nice walks from the restaurants, through slight drizzle, back to our place, and in the end, I was reminded more of NYC and the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer In The City.

June 30, 2005 at 09:11 AM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ipod r.i.p.

No sooner do I fall in love with my new iPod-immersed commute than the thing completely craps out. While fast forwarding through a podcast, my four day old iPod gets stuck fast forwarding. I somehow manage to power down, but now can't get it to power back up. Seems like a hardware issue. This after spending the past three days getting my first few GB of songs all cleaned up and copied onto it.

So this is the downside of going down to HK to buy electronics. Now I've got to either send the thing back to the store or have a friend bring it down and swap it for me. Well, maybe I should use this opportunity to reconsider the 60GB. Maybe me and the 60GB were meant to be together.

June 29, 2005 at 10:52 AM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

wha' happened?!

So just this second, I was able to view this blog from within China. I'll have to do some digging to find out what's happened, and how the blocks seem to have been removed so quickly!

update: So I'm not the only one [link]. And our long national nightmare is over.

June 28, 2005 at 11:46 AM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

i'm with the band

Yesterday I listened to Chinese language lessons, but this morning I just listened to music on my way in to work.

I'd forgotten how much music means to me. In college and just after, I spent four years where being a drummer in a band was the most important thing in the world to me. As much as I'd always loved music, being a part of making (and marketing) it for a few years really changed my relationship to music. Like a lot of people, I used to mostly hear melody and lyrics, but being in the band opened me up to all the little bits that were always right there in front of me: the incidental guitar licks, the fuzzy organs, the reverb on the backing vocals, etc...

With my new birthday present, I blocked out the maddening Shanghai morning and was drenched in the familiar songs and sounds from growing up in Motown. And I thought about how the iPod and Tivo are said to be changing people's relationships to the consumption of content. But thinking of being in the band, and how it's changed the way I listen, I think the really exciting changes will be when these products and the technologies still emerging around them fundamentally change the way that content is produced, when, as it were, everyone has a chance to play.

update: I believe this will be our future, no matter what the SCOTUS says [reg req], and no matter if the innovation in the remix culture happens in the US or elsewhere.

June 28, 2005 at 08:51 AM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

back in shanghai, housekeeping

A bunch to report on, after being away for a few days...

Ang_at_decoBack from Hong Kong late Sunday night. It was a fantastic weekend. Angie planned out the whole thing and we both had a great time. The hotel, the food, the shopping - even the weather held up. After about 10 days of heavy, heavy rain, we only got a shower on Saturday morning. Of course, Friday's rains delayed our flight and made us miss a nice dinner reservation, but it also kept the tempatures really comfortable. I was filled with Canto-pride the whole time. Ang_at_luk_yu_2Everything was clean, getting around was super easy, and the only time we felt the Shanghai-familiar jostling by people pushing was when we were surrounded by tourists heading up to Victoria's Peak. My favorite was dim sum down on Stanley Street at Luk Yu. I even busted out my Cantonese on several occasions, although was a good measuring stick to see how quickly my Mandarin is passing my Cantonese.

The shopping junket was a success as I'm posting this from my new notebook. It's a Lenovo ThinkPad X32, running a Pentium M 1.6GHz, 768Mb RAM. Got it bundled with an DL DVD burner, extra battery, lots of accessories, and an iPod Photo for a great price. If you're headed down to HK, I can recommend the guys who hooked me up. Ang also found several great stores for handbags, and came home with a really great Marc Jacobs... I was the doltish husband who didn't understand the designer bag thing, until Ang helped shed some light - in the end, I might've been even happier than she was that she found a great deal on a great bag. Seeing Ang with so much happiness across her face was priceless.

Otherwise, yesterday was a busy day in the office. A few meetings early, and one with our CEO for about 2.5 hours at the end of the day. He came in stressed out about a problem at one of our other facilities, but ended the session in a peaceful mood after taking us through a couple of technical presentations and a review of our projects. JD and Lanna did a great job with the presentations, navigating through his stream of tough questions. The project review was short and sweet, although at one funny moment, he said that I should watch out for being overloaded, and shouldn't hoard the projects. Just goes to show you that people can always surprise you with how they see things; you pick up some extra slack for the team, and it can be perceived as being selfish. Not the best use of his time or ours, but if it made our CEO happy and made him more productive the rest of the day... cool enough.

Our POTS landline is down for the next 12 hours or so. We apparently had an unknown late fee that we didn't pay in time. They cut off our service while we were away and Ang and ayi could only clear it up yesterday. Darn thing was only 35RMB. They said it should be back before the end of today. Sorry if you've tried calling.

We came back to scorching heat, torrential downpours and a sweaty, stinky, pushy Shanghai yesterday. A good recharge of our batteries and a nice way to gain some more perspective on our life here.

June 28, 2005 at 06:18 AM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

phew, at last

Dinner tonight with the very sweet, very funny David and Pauline. They surprised us by treating for my birthday. So thoughtful! We had a wonderful time catching up, telling stories and just laughing a lot. It was a lot of fun speaking slowly to overlap our Chinese and English skills.

Perfect way to wind down a long, long week. Tomorrow is Hong Kong, the next, my birthday.

June 23, 2005 at 11:59 PM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

reorg meeting

The re-organization remains somewhat in flux. Our CEO has a new potential candidate to slot in above me, but it remains to be seen if it will happen. He's changed his mind a couple of times this week already.

However, we did have a long meeting with him today. The three of us who've been here the longest sat down with him and really talked about these changes and our mutual expectations, evaluated our performances, and in general, had an open and honest heart-to-heart. From both directions: some of it was good, some bad, some maybe planted some seeds we hope will germinate, some maybe falling on deaf ears.

All in all though, I'm really proud of the honesty, integrity, conviction and dedication of the team. We all spoke from the head and the heart for the betterment of the company and the group. This was character training of the first order.

We'll see how things continue to work out...

June 23, 2005 at 04:29 PM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deloitte & NVCA 2005 Global Venture Capital Survey

From the press release:

...U.S.-based venture capitalists expect to expand their global investments, with China and India among their top targets, according to the Deloitte and NVCA 2005 Global Venture Capital Survey conducted jointly by Deloitte & Touche LLP and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).

"The United States is exporting entrepreneurialism," said Mark Jensen, partner and national director of Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Venture Capital Services Group. "People come here from all over the world, obtain experience in the U.S. technology marketplace, then take their knowledge home with them and build their own companies.  The U.S. venture firms are following the entrepreneurs no matter where they are around the world..."

According to the survey, 20 percent of U.S.-based VC respondents plan to increase their global investment activity over the next five years, up from 11 percent currently investing abroad. Forty-two (42) percent plan to invest abroad only with other investors that have a local presence; 39 percent plan to develop strategic alliances with experienced foreign-based venture capital firms; and 30 percent plan to open satellite offices in select regions globally.  The U.S. VCs indicated they expect to maintain their U.S. investment presence, both in terms of physical presence and investment levels...

According to the U.S. VCs, the countries of greatest investment interest over the next five years are China (20 percent), India (18 percent), Canada/Mexico (13 percent), Continental Europe (13 percent), Israel (12 percent) and the United Kingdom (11 percent)...

Asia Pacific VC respondents (of which 84 percent are based in Taiwan) indicated that the United States is their primary non-APAC destination for investment. In fact, 40 percent of all APAC VC firms indicated plans to invest in the United States over the next five years, up from 31 percent of those currently investing in the United States.  Taiwan is the primary investment target for 77 percent of the respondents...

June 23, 2005 at 04:10 PM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

cnooc bids on unocal

More Chinese M&A news [reg req], CNOOC has made an unsolicited $18.5B cash bid for Unocal. Of course, Unocal shareholders would have to first reject the current bid from Chevron, and there will be significant political pressure to block the deal on "strategic resource" grounds.

In any event, it seems more and more Chinese corporations are entering MNC-hood and are competing now on the global stage. I'm sure there will be resentment throughout the US, not unlike the kind I witnessed firsthand back in Detroit when the Japanese automakers emerged as global leaders in the late 70s/early 80s.

Next up, I'm sure we'll see some significant, high profile Chinese real estate investments in the US, and parodies of the more and more prevalent Chinese tourists. Can a remake of Gung Ho be far behind?

June 23, 2005 at 03:08 PM in China | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack