7.5 hr marathon

Phew, we had a Shanghai VP meeting from 2pm until 9:30pm yesterday. We talked circles around the strategic positioning for two clients. Round and round. Then punched holes through them. Then patched the holes, and closed loops. I think we're all on the same page now; heck, maybe we even were at the outset, but I didn't realize it.

Sometimes in sessions like these, I catch myself being a little difficult. I hope it was just healthy skepticism. And I hope we're asking each other questions that help us focus the company. I mean, it's great to get us all "on message" and singing the right story on behalf of the client, but more importantly, I truly feel we're helping them hone strategy too. I believe, at least in my own mind, I have a better sense of where these companies are going (and need to go too). And for that, 7.5 hours was time well spent.

April 24, 2006 at 12:08 PM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

email etiquette

Just got flamed for no good reason via company email. Maybe something was lost in translation from English to Italian back to English. In any event, it never ceases to amaze me how rude people can be to each other over email. And when they do it, they always find reason to extend the cc list to include people they think have more authority. Am I supposed to be impressed? How childish. And of course as Peter Chung and Dianna Abdala can well attest, these threads can take on a life of their own and they never seem to die either.

Well, I tried my best to be conciliatory. We'll see if the unwarranted apologies and offer of a free cup of coffee have the desired effect.

Otherwise, here's hoping people learn to step away from their mail client for a minute or two before shooting off responses. And maybe that they assume that people within a single organization are actually working towards the same goals. And that they learn that most misunderstandings are best resolved directly by those involved, not by adding spectators.

April 19, 2006 at 05:09 PM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

breakfast meeting

Had another quick breakfast meeting this morning at 7:30 out here in Pudong. I know I'm a morning person, but I really do wish I could have more morning meetings. I find that they are highly effective for business and personal meetings. Most people are more available at that time (whereas lunches tend to get booked up). The issues of the day are waiting for you at work, but you've still got that morning optimism that you'll be able to tackle them all. The length is generally fixed since you've got to get in to the office (which makes for more focus).

Not enough people here in Shanghai are doing breakfast meetings yet. For one, a lot of places don't open early enough. For two, many Shanghainese just grab street food during their commutes and don't make time for breakfast.

Well, if you want a sure fire way to get on my calendar (and ingratiate yourself with me) offer a breakfast meeting.

April 19, 2006 at 09:13 AM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

beginnings and endings

It happened back on March 31, but things have been pretty crazy since. That day, two good friends quit from the company. They were a big part of the team here and what made the day to day bearable. I'd spent the better part of the last two weeks in class for TRIUM so it hadn't quite hit me until today...

Down at lunch, not everyone was local. None of the old expat friends there. Strange how much has changed at the company in two years. Progress maybe? Successful localization? Or maybe an attrition problem? I'm too much in it to be able to say for sure.

This weekend we also finished our six week lamaze class. It was a lot of fun, and very informative. Ang and I missed one class while we sunned in Sanya, Hainan, and I missed one class while I was b-schooling, but otherwise we were there watching all of the couple make their way through the last parts of the second trimester. It was great to see all of the women get bigger and bigger over the time. Need any tips on breathing patterns or relaxation techniques, drop a line.

Shanghai VP has been going full bore. We've been completely swamped with interesting projects and interesting prospects. Interesting to put my recent experiences in the context of the classes we had in TRIUM on China. There seems to be a business environment for the MNCs and the expatriates that the small scale (for now) entrepreneurs and returnees aren't living in. If I can get my head around a few themes, I'll post.

April 17, 2006 at 02:57 PM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

scale

On an investor call for Shanghai VP yesterday, the questions, as they so often do, centered around scalability; basically asking, "You've done a good job bringing your business to this point, but how will you be able to scale it to a size with a decent exit for us."

It's perhaps predictable that in a country of 1.3 billion a big concern for any investor is how can you grow your business to meet the market. What's perhaps less expected is the real shortage of people who are both aware of the scaling problem and equiped to handle the challenges of it.

For the company we're working with, their answer was to re-trench, slow their rapid growth for about two years while they built process and people infrastructure to grow in a more sustainable way for the long term. Now they've got the internal resources to build upon.

Sure it was a difficult choice, but I think it's proved to be the right one.

Unfortunately, so much of the Chinese economy (and its components) is focused on growth at any costs. And usually just at the top line too. This is inline with the way the government has incented managers at all levels for a long time. Maybe it has a parallel with the US markets forcing quarterly focus on public companies (and VCs on their portfolios too). But in the end it can lead to "getting ahead" of ourselves. Inevitably, some retrenchment is necessary. Look at real estate pricing in Shanghai for a case in point.

This balancing act between short term growth and long term sustainability is the challenge every organization faces and the judged success of the Chinese government's management of the national economy will be in large part based in how they continue to manage this balance.

February 7, 2006 at 06:55 AM in China, Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another month, another org chart

So I've got another new boss, or rather two bosses. Instead of directly reporting to the CEO or one level removed, it's now two, as me and the team have been bumped over to the Finance division. So it's CEO-CFO-my boss- then me. Things are never boring here. At least I've got plenty of experience with where a corporate development, corporate ventures team can fit into an organization and how that affects the chains of decision.

Ultimately, I think this shift makes sense as the types of deals we're looking at have changed to include some more early stage opportunities. Guess time will tell though. And then there's the fact that our CEO usually wants to be involved very directly in all our projects because of his own entrepreneurial streak. We'll see how this hand-off plays out, but the others were basically on paper only.

February 7, 2006 at 04:12 AM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

helium report

Earlier this week, Ang and I had the great pleasure of sharing our friend Katherine's birthday with her husband Jamie. More than that, they treated us to dinner, and let us share in the wonderful, fresh-off-the-presses news that their baby, due about a week after ours, is going to be a girl. How nice are they?!

We went out to Jack Falstaff in our old neighborhood of South Beach, San Francisco. On our way over, Angie and I walked down Townsend and up 2nd and couldn't believe the development that's gone on in the short two years since we moved to Shanghai. Now, it's not been Shanghai paced, but it seemed to be faster than the changes in New York's East Village (nee Lower East Side), another of our old neighborhoods that is gentrifying at a quick speed.

Nice dinner. Lots of catching up. Lots of pregnancy note sharing. Lots of fun.

Jamie's up to some interesting things over at Helium Report. I can see a media empire expanding to include other forms of delivery (RSS, podcasts, vidcasts, etc...) to their great targeted audience. Building communities of trust is also the basis of a little idea that I'm working on spinning into my TRIUM term project, of which I'm sure there'll be more posts to come. Both ideas also remind me of Willie Sutton's famous quote about why he robbed banks, to which he replied, "Because that's where they keep the money."

February 4, 2006 at 05:56 PM in Business School, Personal, Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

small blessings

Finally a moment of peace during this crazy trip to the US. We saw a high risk ultrasound specialist this morning. Part of the Camino Medical Group that my brother belongs to and a Stanford affiliate. We were following up on some borderline test results that had us anxious in NYC. Well, the results were a big, big relief. Everything looks good. A couple of "soft markers" that need even more follow up, but the baby's development looks healthy so far, and the markers seem to be really soft signals. Angie and I were comfortable enough not to opt for an amnio.

Then it was off to Lullaby Lane to drop a wad and get swamped with parenting choices. LL is the baby superstore that everyone in the Bay Area goes to, and with good reason - friendly staff, lots of selection and fair pricing. Our second trip in the past three days. Though it's a little bit of a haul from Mountain View up to San Bruno, something tells me that I might find myself back there again in the next seven days, before we leave.

Last night, went to a CSPA event at Fenwick & West. The talk was on the state of VC. A presentation of the latest Money Tree results and a few words from each VC on the panel. A little bit of interesting content, but good for getting my mind into an alpha state where I could come up with some interesting ideas. Well, we'll see if others think they're interesting, but for now, at least good for some idle brainstorming that might prove valuable to either of my two jobs or my bschool work. Gotta let them bake a little bit, but they're around resource and capital efficiency in transpacific start-ups.

January 26, 2006 at 12:08 PM in China, Fatherhood, Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Noveler Managers Club

Maybe some entrepreneurs and young managers at this Noveler Managers Club networking event:

Date:   Dec. 20, 2005 (Tuesday)
Time:   19:00-22:00   
Venue: PAUL&TED Bar Restaurant (保罗.泰迪酒吧餐厅)
Address: 2/F ,No.380 Xingguo Road  (Near Wukang Road)
Participators: MBAs(Fudan,Jiaotong,CEIBS) , Entrepreneurs ,managers 
Cost::  RMB 100---with RSVP    RMB 120---without RSVP,  RSVP before Dec15 is appreciated.   
Organizer:Noveler Managers Club (珞文经理人俱乐部)
           Noveler Advertising (上海珞文广告有限公司)

December 14, 2005 at 04:24 PM in China, Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

waiting for data

I asked a company that we are interested in for some additional information, content that they should have ready for anyone who is as seriously interested in investing as we are. And they've taken two days to respond with incomplete and unclear answers.

Sometimes we make life (and work) more difficult for ourselves.

December 14, 2005 at 03:30 PM in Strategic Ventures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack