Duel of Korean maps shows how difficult it is to dethrone the ruling kingWeb 2.0 | 2009/02/25 09:51 | Web 2.0 Asia
Blogger Channy Yun, on his Korean blog, recently posted that Daum Map's traffic has slided back to its original level after a shark-jump peak in late January, when Daum launched Street View service.
All in all, Daum has a great map service, better than Naver's in ways (take the Street View, currently not provided by Naver, for one). However, Naver seems to be such a strongly entrenched top-of-the-mind choice for most Koreans, and the "escape velocity" for any second player to take off and surpass Naver can be just too high. Got a great feature? People may give it a try or two, but chances are they will just go back to Naver. The Economist has a recent article on Naver's success, which I'll cover on the next post.
Meanwhile, on a separate note, Korean map service players may be suffering from too many government regulations. No Cut News reported (article in Korean) that Daum had to remove the Blue House, Korea's Oval Office, from its map service due to government request. (Left in the picture is what shows on Google Maps, while on the right you can see the whole area has been greened out). Google itself had enormous difficulty launching the map service in Korea due to many regulations. That's probably what you get when your country, while having bleeding-edge technologies, is still bordering with a military enemy who is very open about its missile launching programs.
Hello - Kim Jong Il Speaking HereMobile | 2009/02/12 00:50 | Web 2.0 Asia
Found something interesting while digging through some old news. According to Chosun Ilbo, Orascom of Egypt, seemingly the sole wireless phone service provider in North Korea, said it now has about 6,000 mobile subscribers in the country. Well, we don't even have to go as far as China Mobile's 300 million subscribers to dwarf the 6,000, but I think it's a meaningful start though. I hope more widespread usage of mobile communication will help the country get more open and developed, thereby helping the economic situation and the quality of life in North Korea, in quite bad shape as attested by the picture below, get better. (What a stark contrast, by the way!)
Using Mozilla Firefox in KoreaOther | 2009/02/09 23:33 | Web 2.0 Asia
Note: The following is a guest post, contributed by Andrew Ace. a startup entrepreneur with expertise in social networking and viral marketing. For Andrew's full profile, see below.
If you love technology then living in Korea is a wonderful thing. Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world. When someone thinks about Broadband Internet access and cell phone technologies Korea is usually one of the first countries to come to mind. Broadband penetration in Korean households is over 90% while cell phone service and DMB (live TV) can be accessed anywhere in the country including in the subways. These are things to really boast about. In fact, personally I can’t recall anytime that I have ever had a cell phone call dropped which is a common occurrence in the US.
With all these marvels of technology that are in Korea there is still one piece of technology though that has been held back about a decade. I’m talking of course about the Internet browser and the monopoly that Internet Explorer has on the Korean market. There are very few websites that will even run correctly using any other type of browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.). It’s almost ridiculous to think that a country that is about 2 or 3 years ahead of most other countries’ technology is still limiting their advancement in internet browsing.
Being from the US I have enjoyed the use of Mozilla Firefox for some time now. It runs much smoother than IE and since I am still running Windows XP and refuse to upgrade my operating system until a better form of Microsoft Windows 7 comes out my Internet Explorer runs at a snail’s pace. I finally got so frustrated with IE today that I needed to do something. I had even downloaded Google Chrome today just to see if that would work with some Korean websites, but with no avail.
That’s why I am so happy that I was able to find this add-on. What this add-on does is it allows someone using Mozilla Firefox to open an Internet Explorer tab within the Firefox interface. You can change back and forth between rendering engines and it has so far worked perfectly on many of the Korean websites that I have tried.
Here are a few screenshots of how the add-on works.
1. Here we have logged onto a Korean website (tour.interpark.com). As you can see the layout is a little off and the “select how many people” can’t be viewed properly.
2. Now I will change the rendering engine to use Internet Explorer.
3. Finally, the website is perfectly viewed within the Mozilla Firefox interface using the Internet Explorer add-on. Notice there is an Internet Explorer icon next to the open tab. This tells you that you are now using an Internet Explorer tab.
You can easily switch back and forth between rendering agents and change different settings for the add-on. I hope that this knowledge of the add-on helps people to enjoy a world beyond Internet Explorer.
Andrew Ace is a Korean-American entrepreneur who graduated from Boston University in Finance and Law. He has worked with a couple different US start-ups such as www.maestro.fm. Andrew originally began his interest in technology start-ups when he founded Job’oozle, formerly www.joboozle.com (warning: joboozle.com is now a link farm), while he was in college with 5 other students at Harvard and Dartmouth. His experience is in social networking and viral marketing techniques. He is currently working on a new start-up in Korea.
Samsung Mobile to Join the App Store Fray: Are Apps Stores Dime a Dozen?Mobile | 2009/02/09 23:29 | Web 2.0 Asia
Recently Samsung Mobile has been the biggest gainer in the global mobile phone market. As if it wasn't enough to become the best-selling maker in some key European markets like the UK and France, Samsung became the king of the hill in the US cellphone market last year (which apparently had been helped significantly by Motorola's skid). A side note: Another big gainer in the US cellphone market was LG; As a result, 4 out of 10 cellphones currently sold in the US now hail from S Korea.
Full of confidence, apparently Samsung wants to flex its muscle in the software market as well - Samsung has announced plan (link in Korean) to join the app store bandwagon, with its own offering of mobile app store. Official announcement is to be made in Mobile World Congress on the 16th.
With Nokia also announcing a plan for its own app store, it's now easier to count handset manufacturers that do not have a plan for an app store. But, of course, it remains to be seen if Samsung et al can pull off creating as elegant an user experience as that of Apple's, thereby creating similar level of market success and customer satisfaction. Just remember guys - it takes whole different sets of skills.
What Do They Put In The Water?: Lessons for Asian Entrepreneurs from IsraelWeb 2.0 | 2009/02/06 17:22 | Web 2.0 Asia
This is a guest post from Eyal Gura, an Israeli entrepreneur who has rich startup experience such as founding Picscout and Picapp, as well as Wharton MBA, under his belt. For more information about Eyal and his company, see his full profile below. The following is pretty dense reading, but it's very excellent and up-to-date coverage about the Israeli startup scenery, from which startups from the rest of Asia can learn tons. Enjoy!
[Web 2.0 Asia] Israel is known to be the country that has the second highest number of NASDAQ-listed tech companies after the US. Generally speaking, what do you think was the key success factor(s)? Any words of wisdom/lesson for Korean entrepreneurs that want to set their foot in the Valley?
[Eyal] The key factors, in my opinion, for the Israel's relative success in IP/technology entrepreneurial activities are: (a) a culture of self selection that is rooted in the Jewish education (b) profound science/tech education system (c) mandatory military service that exposes people, when they are young, to leadership, teamwork, and management aspects, as well as to risks and to cutting edge technologies they can later continue developing in the civilian world; and finally (d) Israel is a very small place and the diffusion of the entrepreneurial innovation happens much faster when you meet your company partner/co-founder in the army, or you work in a range of 10 minutes walking distance from 20 VC firms.
To all these key factors you can add a successful governmental help during the 90's that effectively created an entire VC community from scratch and still helps start ups with R&D grants provided by the chief scientist . Having said all that , one can also claim that the real reason for the Israeli technology success is the fact that we simply don’t have a choice - as a nation that is half the population size of Seoul metropolitan , which lacks natural resources and surrounded by nations to which it cannot export - Israel really did not have a choice but to become innovative , encourage intellectual property and go global.
Korean entrepreneurs have many things in common with what I described above, however they do have the privilege to launch and test their products in Korea and even get to a profitable stage while still focusing their efforts on Korea. In addition, Korea has many of the world's largest companies in automotive , semiconductors and consumer electronics which can be a very fruitful place to gather market information , learn customer needs , start a beta trial and even initial sales. It is a long and a separate discussion, but successful Israeli startups mostly end up being acquired and we have only few big technology companies to look up to that grew to become global market leaders (i.e. Comverse, Checkpoint, Amdocs ), so in that sense Korea has excellent in-house role models in building great companies.
[Web 2.0 Asia] How is the Israeli startup landscape these days, in this economic downturn? For example, are there many university students who aspire to start their own companies?
[Eyal] The startup landscape was affected in direct correlation to silicon valley . Even though Israel has a reasonably healthy VC infrastructure , the Limited Partners at most of these VCs are the same US-based financial and pension institutions. The end result is that late stage companies with a proven B-model will get funded and survive , very early stage ideas can also get enough funding to get through the rough turmoil times, but the rest will have very challenging times. As an interesting anecdote that relates to the self-selection culture we discussed above , I will note that the month when the financial markets crashed was a record month in terms of new start ups being founded in Israel , so the lack of job security actually created an entrepreneurial waive as people want to be more in -control on their own future.
[Web 2.0 Asia] I assume many Israeli startups might also experience similar cultural/language barriers when they go to Silicon Valley, as experienced by the Asian startups. How do you think they overcome such barriers? Are there any parties, such as those who came to the Valley and succeeded earlier, or some kind of Israeli venture association in Bay Area (if there is one), that provide help?
[Eyal] There are many unique and some time funny (or frustrating) cultural barriers for Israelis in the Valley. While the Asian culture is more introvert and patient , the Israelis are much more edgy , easily excited and in many cases aggressive to the US potential customer or investor that tends to be more 'politically correct'. So for example, when an inexperienced Israeli sales person or founder hears "your idea is interesting + thank you for dropping by + we will get back to you in few weeks", he will get very excited from the prospects of this partnership and will start calling the American partner again and again for weeks just to get voice messages , before understanding that the real message was "I did not get so excited about your idea, but I don't feel comfortable to just tell you NO and send you away after you took such an effort to come over". Another , more language related story I heard of , is that while a major agreement was drafted and integration talks already started the US executive shared a major technical concern with the Israeli field engineer. The engineer promptly replied "this is not a problem for our technology " (meaning , we can address your concern ) while the American executive heard " your concern is not our problem " and therefore decided to cancel the deal. There are many more of these funny/frustrating stories.
Luckily , many of these barriers are overcome by the network of other entrepreneurs that already progressed in the learning curve and also by the fact that many US companies and investors already got used to work with Israelis and know their pros and cons. In addition - the Israeli consulate in San Francisco and the CICC organization are doing their best to help the newcomers to get around and expand their network. Another organization that is amazingly instrumental is the Bird foundation which has financially supported partnerships between Israelis and US companies for over 30 years.
[Web 2.0 Asia] How would you describe the Israeli VC industry, compared to, say, that of the Valley's? (In terms of deal size, willingness to take risks, overall quality of practice, etc.)
[Eyal] The Israeli VC industry is a relatively young one, founded around 15 years ago ( meaning only 2+ full investment cycles ). During these years we witnessed three bubble burstings (Web , Telecom and now Financial) - so if you put aside the hype around Israeli high tech and measure pure financial returns, the Israeli VCs, for the most part, did not exceed their US peers and many of them did not generate positive returns (picapp's investors at Carmel Ventures are on top of the list with nice returns! : ) .
The quality of the practice was substantially improved once the first generations of high tech entrepreneurs started to join the VCs. Also, Israelis who gained experience while working in the US corporates or graduating ivy league universities came back home and started to help the local companies. Competition always helps to improve, and the industry as a whole enjoyed the fact that US VCs aggressively open branches / affiliate offices in Israel or routinely sends their representatives to Israel to compete on the deal flow ( Sequoia , Benchmark , NVP , USVP , Accel , DFJ, etc).
[Web 2.0 Asia] Could you name several "legendary figures" in the Israeli startup scenery? (I only know very few, like Yossi Vardy.) Are there any stories of successful startup founders giving back to the Israeli venture community?
[Eyal] Part of the reason why we see bigger and better Israeli start ups are the fact that the young entrepreneurs have now many successful veterans to learn from. Many of these veterans became VC or angel investors and help companies voluntarily or even by teaching courses at local universities. While Yossi Vardy is definitely a more recognizable one , there are many others legendary figures that are busy with helping local start ups such as: Ed Mlevski [ Tyco] , Efi Arazi [ Scitex] and Uzia Galil [ Elron] (i.e "the high tech industry founders" ) , Shlomo Dovrat [Tecnomatix ] , Yanki Margalit [ Aladdin] and Gil Shwed [ checkpoint] (" i.e. the first generation") and even younger 'legends' such as Yair Goldfinger [ ICQ] and Yaron Galai [ Quigo] already started their second round of entrepreneurial ventures and are also helping other start ups to make their initial and most crucial steps. I am confident that soon we will be seeing an evident and similar pattern in Korea once the first cycle of student of Ahn Cheolsoo's class at KAIST will graduate and start initiating new ventures. (*Editor's note: Eyal studied with Ahn Cheolsoo at Wharton's executive MBA class.)
Eyal Gura is happily married (soon to be a father of a young girl) and lives in San Francisco. He graduated from Wharton MBA and the Sam Zell's entrepreneurship program at IDC. He co-founded IEC - the first entrepreneurship club in Israel - and served in the submarine when he was serving the Israeli military. Eyal founded the first online video hub for recruiting (way before the right time), and co-founded (this time right on time) the company that became the world leader in online image monitoring - www.picscout.com. He also recently founded www.picapp.com, with the ambitious goal to enable online publishers to get free access to the best legal visual content and use them - or in simple words, bloggers can use professional photos from gettyimages or corbis for free, while Picapp uses online advertising model to monetize and pay content owners. The images comes with an 'SEO steroid ' that helps the blogger's blog be better indexed on google images or other image search engines. When not working, Eyal enjoys aikido (used to practice tai-kwon-do in Israel but did not find a traditional tai-Kwan-do dojo in SF ), reading and scuba diving. He also twitters and blogs every once in a while at the picapp blog.
Bonjour, Paris - Web 2.0 Asia goes to Forum NetexplorateurOther | 2009/02/06 16:55 | Web 2.0 Asia
Here I am in Paris participating in the Forum Net Explorateur, a hightech/business conference held by the French Senate. Overall, the event is a lot more upscale than I had expected - after all, it's being held right in the country's senate. Many of the 300+ participants wear suits, and fine food and cocktails are being served during hallway discussions - I can certainly see the heavy European culture in action here.
This year, one of the forum's special topics is South Korea, which is why they invited some Korean folks like Daum's founder Jaewoong Lee and the director of Songdo u-City projec. I got invited as a blogger and Open Web Asia conference organizer, and my talks (later today) will be titled "Lesser known web innovations in Korea".
Time and again, I am surprised to see that what we Koreans take for granted is can actually generate a lot of interest from those outside of Korea. For example, when a French expat in Seoul says that most Korean taxis are equipped with a navigation system that can double up as a satellite TV or a realtime traffic monitor, and that Korean taxi drivers can somehow drive fast while watching the national team's soccer game on DMB, people go nuts. Though I seriously doubt Koreans give lots of credits to the government these days, the French folks are marveled by Korean government's strong technology drive.
So people naturally ask, why is Korea so advanced, and what are the next innovations that are about to come from Korea. About this, says Jaewoong Lee, the founder of Daum (the country's second biggest portal and the biggest media site): Korea is a pretty small/packed/homogeneous society, but people put so much focus on education and innovation. For example, Koreans are the #1 foreign students in the US with some 15% representation. This makes the country very dynamic and innovative. Historically, many services have been introduced in Korea first, such as social network (Cyworld), classmates site (iLoveSchool), knowledge search (Knowledge iN), online games (Lineage), etc. (I can also add internet telephony by Dialpad.) Likewise, what's currently ongoing in Korea may see wider adoption in other countries in the future, such as the media convergence through IPTV, or the super-highspeed wireless network, said Lee.
It's always good to be called an innovator, but as an insider, I feel Korea isn't as innovative as it used to be 10 years ago. Many Korean web industry experts express their worries that the sweeping startup passion that existed before doesn't seem to be there any more in Korea. What the Koreans need might be the sense of urgency to cross the chasm, not navel-gazing and self satisfaction. But still Korea is way ahead of many parts of the world, especially in terms of how average people embrace the technology.
Interpark HM Brings You Closer to 4-Hour WorkweekOther | 2009/02/03 11:45 | Web 2.0 Asia
(Via Ian) Interpark is Korea's prominent e-commerce player. Its spin-off affiliate, Interpark HM, brings you closer to achieving that ever-evasing dream of . The service has been around since last year, but it's come under my radar only recently thanks to Ian's post and some recent news.
Interpark HM provides various outsourcing services for housekeeping chores:
- General housekeeping
- Post-delivery maternity care
- Afterschool childcare
- House cleaning, disinfection, sterilizing
- Appliance cleaning - e.g. Washing machine disassembly and cleaning
- Air conditioning care
One good thing about Interpark HM is that you can order individual, bite-sized services. You want your kid to be taken care of between 4-5 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only? Sure, possible. You want only your bathroom to be cleaned, as you can take care of the rest of the house? About $90 will get your bathroom squeaky clean. Of course, you can buy more whole, aggregate plans.
Afterschool childcare is the newest offering from Interpark HM. Childcare is among the biggest concerns for any working women, yet finding the right nanny is as difficult as finding the right spouse. Interpark HM's CEO, Mr Junghoon Han, says as the father of a 4-year old, he shares the pain and strives to make sure the quality of Interpark HM's childcare service is kept absolutely high. So they obviously have a good cause - and I always wish all companies with good cause to have good financial returns as well.