Friday, October 27

Viet Nam : The Unseen Economic Tiger

"All is fair in Love and Money"

After twelve years of negotiations and the opening of formal US Vietnam relations by the Clinton administration, the WTO has ratified Vietnam's addition to their 'trading club'.

This is great, great news for the Vietnamese - they've stoically got on with it over the last 30 years, somewhat forgotten by the rest of the world - except for old allies and neighbours.

Since I've been travelling to Vietnam, it's changed from majestic bicycles and lights out at 10pm, to revving Honda's, Lexus's and late night clubbing. It's lost that romantic 'old asia' feel and carved out it's own style of Asian Dragon economy. The Vietnamese government has had the luxury of seeing the good and bad of Thailand, Korea and Taiwan's rapid growth in the late 90's.

My guess is that the western world will rediscover Vietnam over the next three years; the most varied and delicious food I've ever had, fine crafts and french impressionist-style original art. Oh, and rich, thick strong coffee. Plus some of the best entrepreneurs around.

I'll leave the serious side to the reports below.

Terms Approved for Vietnam’s Admission to W.T.O.

Vietnam commits to open markets, economic reform

Vietnam gets OK to join World Trade Organization

Vietnam’s Roaring Economy Is Set for World Stage

Monday, October 23

Note to self: Don't make these start-up mistakes

I just stumbled across Paul Graham's "18 Mistakes that Kill Start-ups"

So here's a note to self of the best:

#1. More than one founder. Who can else is going to be interested when there's "packet loss on a router" at 2am

#5. Don't be sold on the idea. No matter how sold I get on my dream idea, be prepared to drop it like a cheap date for the next best thing, as the first ideas are rarely the right ones.

#8. Get it out quick. Set a date and crack on developing and launching on that day. Delay's are excuses to take longer to solve problems you will have solved through the night before launch on your first, earlier launch date.

#11. Raise Mo' Money. Stick it together with tape, and you'll only ever have a shoe-box - when it rains, the box will collapse. Get enough to do it properly, and you'll have a house.

#15. Demand before Profit. Solve their problem first, and solve it well, then worry about how to make money from it. Worry about the money first, and your product wont satisfy users - because it will be about the money - not their need.

Sunday, October 22

The Appliance of Science

A quick follow-up to Video Frenzy!
Over on Guy Kawasaki's excellent blog, he talks of how the inventors and researchers can get swept up on the latest boom/bubble, saying things like.

The technology we invented for satellite imaging can be used for amateur video, so we could have created YouTube and sold to it to Google for $1.6 billion. Let’s find an investor to fund this since our budget is set for the year. How hard could it be to create a better YouTube?

It's so easy to get starry-eyed on valuations in your market from the latest blockbuster corporate take-over - it seems the scientists fall into the same thinking as us entrepreneurs. VC's must really be getting it from all sides!

Wednesday, October 18

Sudoku Viet Nam

Today the world got a little Su Doku crazier. Sudoku took another bold step on its global march and hit Vietnam. For the less travelled, that's the country that finished a war over 30 years ago and is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

With some great friends and colleagues in Vietnam, we've worked late nights and early mornings to bring a local take on Sudoku to the country. So today, Sudoku Vietnam was launched, and its been no mean feat – publishing across all media, creating a unique design that fits with the culture, signing up partners and bringing the whole thing to market very quickly from a small and talented team.

Thang Bom, our adopted son of Sudoku Vietnam is a likeable folklore character, with a story not dissimilar to David and Goliath's. Just like the various Sudoku championships around the world have shown, its not always the oldest, wisest that are the fastest. Hence Thang Bom.

So, we've injected a little colour into our Sudoku Vietnam, given it some personality, and made it fun beyond the puzzles themselves. The books, website, events, posters and more all carry this same sense of humour and club like feel.

It's a small start in an exciting market. I hope Vietnam takes to Sudoku the way the rest of the world has. Some of the brightest, smartest people I've met on my travels are from Vietnam. Judging by some of the times recorded on the website so far, I think we might cultivate a Vietnamese world champion.

Tôi xin gửi lời cảm ơn các team Sudoku Việt Nam

Tuesday, October 10

Video Frenzy!

The Google YouTube marriage is rocking the tech headlines right now. It's an interesting play that pits Google closer to being a media owner/broadcaster than ever before. The outside world is spinning in the numbers, $1.6bn, is it over or undervalued? How do you value a social media site?

Having been grounded in post-bubble survival for several years, I had got used to valuations around the small millions. I'm not afraid to admit that at the time I thought MySpace was expensive at $580m just twelve months ago. Of course, the sale by Fox Interactive Media of MySpace and other Fox properties site search to Google ($1bn) suddenly makes the price tag seem small.

So has the world of web 2.0 and social media suddenly reached a new level of valuation?
I'm reading Car Haacke's Frenzy right now, and he makes an interesting point:

"Tying nvestment evaluations to another person's actions, no matter how expert, has proven dangerous unless one knows a lot about what lies behind that decision - especially how the person approaches risk."

"When a large company made an acquisition or launched a new initiative based to some degree on the insight of outside experts, other watchful investors took this investment decision of further proof of the viability of the venture."

Actually, News Corporation and Google's reasons for buying MySpace and YouTube respectively are quite different than a VC or a public-market valuation:

1. They are 'taking out' a competitive threat to the rest of their existing
2. They are purchasing a complimentary asset which can add value to other parts
of their business i.e. Fox Movies distributed and promoted via MySpace
3. They already have infrastructure and contacts to make the businesses even

So at face-value you see YouTube with 'zip-all' revenues and wonder over the price tag. To Google its 100m people who can take their email, use their maps and get exposed to multi-media contextual ads. Plus it's a major competitor pulled into the fold.

What these corporate deals don't add up to is that, or RooTV are each worth billions. But according to Haacke, and every bubble before, we can expect all similar companies to command these one-off valuations. And that's inflating the bubble.

Real value is in the eye of the beholder.