Friday, June 22

How a six-month-old startup got bought by Google

This is a nice, fairy tale story for budding entrepreneurs. Over to Yi-Wyn Yen on Zenter's super fast sale to Google.

Monday, June 18

PhotoSynth: Content is king, but unlocking it creates value

A friend of mine today skyped me a 'must watch video'. In this presentation at TED, Blaise Aguera y Arcas manages to live demo Microsoft's Photosynth and hints at the possibilities...

In many ways, the newest internet thinking and development is around semantic connections, using publicly available information. In English, that means that every Facebook profile has info about the person, their friends, hobbies, plus pictures, videos etc. So by discovering ways to link all of these traits to other people creates a whole new world of fun, relevance and connectedness.

MySpace and Facebook know the huge value they have in their data, if they can mine it and bring that value to bare with marketers. But Photosynth takes an entirely different, perhaps more valuable approach.

It creates value in the 'experience' rather than trying to apply it solely to advertising, and by making a product that is completely unique out of semantic data (photos in this instance). For me, this is THE approach to take with a digital product. So whilst the others are looking for intelligent ways to extract revenue from their data, Photosynth is using the data to create a unique, untouchable proposition - putting them into a whole new category of business.

Have a play with Photosynth and imagine what the future of search engines will look like. Text, photo's, audio, video, people all dropped into a 3D navigable environment.

Tuesday, June 5

Viet Nam; The Internet "Unplugged"

One of the best stories I've heard this week, Viet Nam literarly has had it's Internet "unplugged" by a couple of scrap metal dealers in search of recyclable copper. It seems they found an almost bottomless treasure in the ocean.

Amongst all the new sophistication and technology coming to the country it's comical to think that things like this can happen. Can you imagine it in the UK or USA?

I had noticed that the internet was a lot slower in HCMC than the previous year. Here's the full story why:

Undersea Cable Thieves Slow Vietnam's Internet Access

01 June 2007

Steinglass report (mp3) - Download 410k audio clip
Listen to Steinglass report (mp3) audio clip

Vietnamese Internet users are experiencing slower service after thieves stole part of the one of the country's main fiber-optic transmission cables from the sea floor and sold it for scrap. If one more cable is cut, experts say, Vietnam could lose almost all of its telecommunications capacity. Matt Steinglass reports from Hanoi.

According to Vietnamese press reports, the country's military signed a contract last August with several companies to salvage undersea copper cable left over by the former government of South Vietnam, which fell to North Vietnamese communist forces in 1975.

The contractors, or someone else, apparently went on to "salvage" at lot more than that.

Lam Quoc Cuong, deputy director of the Vietnamese telecom company VTI, says a stretch measuring at least 11 kilometers of the operational fiber-optic cable serving present-day Vietnam is missing.

Cuong says the line was initially cut in March, and Vietnamese police are continuing to catch people selling illegally salvaged cable.

Last week, police in the southern coastal town of Vung Tau said they had captured four boats carrying a total of 100 tons of salvaged fiber-optic cable. The boats allegedly belonged to one man, a Vung Tau resident.

But VTI said the fiber-optic cable seized in Vung Tau does not match VTI's own cable, and must have come from some other line.

Police have not determined who initially cut the operational cable, or how they discovered its location. VTI's Cuong says finding the cable would have been difficult for the thieves.

He says the cable runs through different locations and at different depths. He says thieves might have found the cable by accident, while raising an anchor.

VTI says fixing the cable will cost $2.6 million, and take almost three months. Experts say if VTI's second undersea cable were cut, Vietnam could lose 82 percent of its telecommunications capacity.

Uncle Ho or Colonel Sanders, so long as it's cool

You might guess from the criptic headline that I've spent the last few weeks in Viet Nam. It's a fantastic place to experience for travel, and for business, the fastest developing market in Asia.

Suddenly, since Viet Nam's ascension to the WTO, it's hit investors radars around the world and is now the hot place to be. The country is diving rapidly into consumerism, to regain its former glories. KFC has arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and is a favourite of school children. Internet penetration remains low (18%) but is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. Mobile penetration is a similar story. With 81m people, entrepreneurs can see the potential in helping Vietnam catch-up.

I've been doing business with Viet Nam for around eight-years, making me a relative veteran of the new economy there. And despite my frequent trips, I'm still astounded at the rate of technology adoption and acceptance. Really, MySpace is old hat to a 16 year old who spends their days chatting and playing with friends in 'online games'. These games generated $15m last year and revenues are expected to grow by 300% per annum. That's not a bad return in a country with per capita income of $620.

From a digital strategy perspective, what is most interesting is how these games are used and perceived. They're more about a social network than a game, you get avatars, profiles, chat and all the things you'd expect on Bebo. And they're not only in the WoWC genre, they appeal to both sexes equally. So Second Life is interesting in the UK/US but has minimal penetration. Vietnamese online games have huge penetration amongst under 25s and probably dominate their media consumption.

The West can learn a lot from its Asian counterparts, if it's willing to listen. At Ventures in Pixels we're building and developing a portfolio of web/mobile sites for both sides of the world. They're underwraps for now but should start going into to public beta later this summer.

For anyone interested that hasn't been, get over to Saigon (HCMC) for a holiday in the next few years if you want to get a taste of what it is/was like. Leave it much longer and you'll likely see a modern metropolis.