Open Web Asia, the conference that I created together with some good folks, was last held in October 2008. In 2009, we nearly held the Open Web Asia '09, but the plan faltered as the main sponsor backed off at the last minute (and besides I was too busy having my freshman year at Google.)
But the good spirit lives on, and a group of energetic and capable folks in Malaysia rekindled the pulled off the South East Asia version of Open Web Asia -- dubbed "Open Web Asia South East Asia" or "OWA-SEA". It's a very long name, but as I expect the future Open Web Asia conferences to take place in various cities in Asia, I think it makes more sense if we just go with the city-as-the-postfix system, a la TEDx.
Open Web Asia SEA will be held in KL, Malaysia next week. The conference will host great local speakers (and some foreign ones including myself, and Serkan Toto over at Techcrunch), and the conference has already seen 270+ registrants. (You can register here.) I'm really hoping this to become yet another successful Open Web Asia conference.
The guy who is doing the bulk of heavy-lifting for this conference is Daniel CerVentus. Daniel and I exchanged many emails and I'm really looking forward to meeting him in person finally. He and I have a lot to catch up, as we both know what it takes to pull off a conference of this scale.
Another heads-up for the Open Web Asia conference is that Dr. Gang Lu and his gang (no pun intended ;-) are preparing another Open Web Asia in Taiwan, hopefully to be held this year. Yet another good news is that we have started talks for sponsorship for Open Web Asia Seoul 2011, and it looks very promising so far. (It's too early to share any plans at this point though.)
For any future Open Web Asia's, I will check back and share any progresses; For the upcoming one in Malaysia, I will try to cover any interesting companies that catches my attention. But I'm sure Serkan will do a much better job spotting and introducing interesting services anyway.
Sorry about the long blogging silence -- ever since I became
the main product manager at Google's Blogger, I've been too swamped. I
am learning tons of new stuff these days, and those are definitely worth a
separate post later on.
I figured a good place to pick up from where I left off with my blogging was recapping on the Geeks on a Plane Seoul, a conference held about a month ago in Seoul. About 20 "geeks" from Silicon Valley and the rest of the world flew all the way to Asia and spent nearly three weeks learning about Asia's IT and Web (while at it, of course, doing lots of social drinking and friendship building.)
I organized the Seoul leg of the conference and it was a blast. Given the short time we had (only one full Sunday), Geeks on a Plane Seoul was squarely focused on startup pitches. Though some companies left room for improvement in their deliveries (Korean startups should hone their elevator pitch skills!), in general the pitches were very good.
Thanks to our brave journalist Serkan Toto, we had a very good coverage on Techcrunch. If you are a startup in Seoul Korea, you don't get to be featured on Techcrunch every day. Especially, John Kim of Paprika Lab had the honor of having his big headshot featured on the Techcrunch post. I met with one of the startup CEOs that pitched in GOAP, and he said his company has seen a new, increased level of interest from investors and other folks after the Techcrunch post.
There is also a blog with detailed introductions to some of the companies that presented in the GOAP Seoul. The blog is here, and it's running on none other than Google's Blogger platform (what a coincidence! :-)
Hope the next year's GOAP will stop by Korea too - next time, hopefully with more folks (so we can have a bigger party!)
A bizarre, sad story related to online games. A married couple in Suwon, Korea has been arrested by the police for negligence of their parental duties. The couple left their three month old baby starve to death, because they were "too obsessed with online gaming." Ironically enough, it turned out that the online game they were playing to their baby's death was themed around, well guess what, raising a virtual avatar.
So in short, the couple were too busy taking care of their "virtual baby" that they kept their "real baby" completely unattended and starved to death.
The game is called "Prius Online" and the players can adopt an avatar and grow it. Game players can also buy the avatars virtual items such as clothes, or even write a blog about their avatars, much resembling a parenting diary.
The parents in charge are said to have been under great parenting stress, presumably due to their financial difficulties, and as their parenting stresses mounted, they became more and more obsessed with the game -- their "escape" from the real world.
This is really unheard of, but I'm afraid the world might see more incidents like this as games become more real and blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world. Unlike packaged games, online games and MMORPGs often do not have a clear ending, forcing users to put in endless amount of time and energy into the game. Some players become seriously obsessed with the game and play it for days straight without a wink of sleep. After days of immersive gaming, they might get to confuse the real world and the virtual world, like the way the characters in the movie Avatar gradually became more familiar with the virtual world.
1forME is a newly launched Korean e-commerce site that sells hand-made, artists-produced goods. That's quite a mouthful, but long story short: 1forME is Etsy of Korea.
Etsy saw a gross merchandise sales of about US$ 180M last year, showing some 105% year-over-year growth. This shows that the handmade goods e-commerce is a proven business model, and for every proven business model there's always an Asia opportunity, especially if the model is culture-neutral. Well, both e-commerce and the love for handmade goods seem to be pretty universal concept, I guess.
But according to the company's heatmap, Etsy doesn't seem to have a big Asia presence. This leaves plenty of room for Asian startups to grab the opportunity. 1forME has just thrown hat in the ring, a move that's expected to be followed by many others in the region.
With the rise of internet advertising, there were lots of promises for free music, supported entirely by advertisement. (Remember Spiral Frog, anyone?) But the problem of such free, ads-supported music service was that the ads revenue was never enough to cover the licensing and other costs. Meanwhile, paid streaming services like Spotify (or Korea's Melon et al) seem to be gaining ground fast.
A new service called fanatic.fm tries to rethink ads-supported free music streaming service. Taking the same old text ads or banner ads and slapping them onto music streaming service is like trying to put a round peg into a square hole, fanatic.fm says. It's just not the best way to combine the ads and music consuming experience, they say.
Instead, fanatic.fm built a better ads system for music streaming service. It's more like a sponsorship system, where individuals or brands can "sponsor" artists so that the sponsors' brands or messages can be presented to their visitors in a more powerful way, fully blended with the right music. For example, Red Bull could strategically sponsor certain rockbands popular among X-gamers. Then people can enjoy the rockbands' songs for free, with "sponsored by Red Bull" messages. This would potentially be a better way to present Red Bull brand than simply placing textual ads next to the rock bands' music videos. Also, the sponsor doesn't have to be a corporate brand -- it could be a group of dedicated fans who would do anything that might help the artists they love, certainly including some sponsorship and donation.
Looking at the website, fanatic.fm doesn't seem to be fully launched yet, but they had already been mentioned in the MIDEM, the big music industry event held in Cannes, France, as "a company to pay attention to". fanatic.fm is the brain
child of a Korean team (the same folks who did QBox), but as hinted on their website, the service is
very much eyeing for the global audience.
NHN, the company behind Naver.com, recently announced 2009 financial results. The company posted annual profit of KRW 540 billion (roughly US$ 540mm) on the revenue of KRW 1.3 trillion (about US$ 1.3 billion). Both figures are all-time high, according to NHN.
NHN's profit rates, about 40% of the revenue, again proves that NHN is one giant cash generating machine. NHN is actually one of the most profitable companies in the whole Korean stock market, across all industries. The biggest contributor of this financial success is of course Naver's dominating market share in the web ads. Fueled by Naver's 60-70% search market share, Naver also sees a healthy market share of 65-70% in the nation's internet ads market.
However, apparently there are some concerns over the company's long term growth potential too. About 1/3 of NHN's profit comes from Hangame's gaming business (Hangame is the online gaming arm of NHN corporation). This is a pretty unique revenue mix; Imagine 1/3 of Google's profits are being generated by games, though clearly Google and NHN are different companies as apples and oranges are. In and of itself, generating huge profits from a gaming business would be perfectly fine; However, the problem is that much of Hangame's profit gets generated from what's called "web board games", or things like Korean poker ("Go-stop"). There are increased social concerns towards these games: As people can exchange virtual currency into real money, these games can become too addictive and potentially become borderline gamling.
Also generating investors' concerns is the under-performance of Naver's overseas operations. Naver has always been criticized as a service that achieved its greatness by monopolizing the Korean market, not by building technological unfair advantage that can also work in other countries. To overcome these concerns, Naver has been trying hard to venture into new markets and move the needles there; However, Naver's current progress in other markets can best be described as "still trying".
Naver is a great company: after all, it's the world's 7th largest internet search provider, a remarkable position given that the majority of its users are only Koreans. But without meaningful signals coming from overseas market, and less dependency of its gaming business on the poker-like games, at least Naver's stock price could stall for a while.
MBC, a major Korean broadcasting company, announced (link in Korean) it will make nearly all of its content available to anyone for sharing. This means any individual or company can freely grab MBC's original content and put it up on their server without any restrictions.
MBC says they are doing this as they are confident they will be able to monetize successfully. End customers who want to download MBC content should pay around KRW 500 per episode (= about half a buck). MBC will collect the revenues from P2P service providers, and has signed agreement with 40 P2P companies. As a way to make sure there is no loophole, MBC will use the technologies that can detect free-riders -- content downloaders who do not pay for the content. There are startup companies, such as Enswer, that can filter out illegally downloaded content.
MBC's new policy can be summed up as: Encourage more sharing/uploading, and monetize at the point of downloading. To me this seems to be a better strategy than what MBC (and all other content owners) have been trying so hard to do in the past, only in vain: Putting heavy penalties to content uploaders, in a hope such measure will scare people away. But the problem is, many of the content uploaders turn out to be 16-year highschool students, who may not be aware of all the laws and regulations, nor are easily scared in general.
MBC says they are giving the new system a try until March this year.
It looks like TEDx Seoul videos are now up. Mine is here. Show some link/share love!
Since the video is offered in Windows Media plug-in, not in Flash media (a la YouTube), I can't take the share codes and embed them in this post. Also the audio quality is obviously less than desirable, with quite a few portions of the talk sounding broken and incomprehensible -- thanks to the wireless mic that came on and off all the time, leading to the frustrations of some speakers including myself. For a conference speaker, nothing is worse than a malfuctioning mic. About 2 paragraphs of planned talk got wiped out from my brain on stage, and those were the funniest 2 paragraphs! Sigh.
As a Korean, I definitely feel more comfortable talking in Korean, but given the subject and the global nature of the conference, I did my talk in English. Subtitles don't seem to be offered yet -- but as soon as they are up, please come back and see some TED Talks by our Korean speakers. They are as much entertaining and engaging as any other TED speakers from around the world.
Chang Kim's TEDx Seoul talk: http://tedxseoul.com/xe/5491
(Via Lovesera) It's holiday season! For anyone interested in visiting Korea anytime soon for whatever reason, here's a good (and free) Korea guidebook. Korea Tourism Organization published an English tour guide for Korea. You can download the pdf file from the link below. It could be a good in-flight read.
It looks KTO put the slides up on Scribd themselves, which is pretty amazing. Is Korean government finally embracing web 2.0 technologies? By the way, the organization recently had a new CEO, Lee Cham, a German-converted-to-Korean, and are moving aggressively to invite more visitors to Korea. They even hired Bae Yong Joon as an ambassador.
(Via Bloter.net) According to Atlas Research Group, a mobile-focused research firm in Korea, iPhone came out as the best selling phone in Korea in the week of November 30. During that week, iPhone posted 10.2% market share of all mobile handsets (not just smartphones) sold in Korea.
The actual market share would be higher, as the figure does not include corporate bulk sales. For instance, Daum, Korea's #2 internet portal, announced to give free iPhones to all its employees. (The plan later changed to include an option to select a Samsung phone instead.)
The biggest market share loser turned out to be Samsung, which seems pretty natural given the company's high market share. Thanks to iPhone, Samsung's smartphone market share in Korea took a hit of 25.4%, and it turned out that 43.5% of those who switched to iPhone were Samsung phone users.
Just as the iPhone was a boon for AT&T (which is now taking all the blames for poor 3G coverage in the US), iPhone is helping KT, the Korean carrier for the iPhone, gain market share. The stop-loss strategy for the market-leader SK Telecom? A killer Android device, which is rumored to be similar to Motorola Droid but is better, bound for January 2010 launch.