How WhatsApp founder made it big from rags-to-riches?


WhatsApp_Founder Jan Koum

Once a cleaner at a grocery store, Koum’s fortune changed the day he got the idea of an app that would allow people to send text messages via the Internet instead of sending SMS.

WhatsApp users worldwide received surprising news when Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp announced that Facebook was buying over WhatsApp for USD19 billion in cash and stock. It is by far the biggest acquisition made by the social networking giant to date. Prior to this, Facebook closed a deal with Instagram for USD1 billion in 2012.

WhatsApp Messenger is a successful cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows users to exchange messages without having to pay SMS bills. All it needs is an internet data plan. In addition to basic messaging WhatsApp users can also create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. WhatsApp currently has 600 million users worldwide.

Jan Koum, now a billionaire from the deal made with Facebook, was born in a small town outside Kiev, Ukraine. He was the only child of a housewife and construction manager and the family led an austere life. At the age of 16, he moved to Mountain View, California with his mother and grandmother. His father stayed behind with plans to follow on later.

To make ends meet every month, Koum worked as a cleaner at a grocery store and his mum worked as a babysitter. He even had to line up to collect food stamps during those tough times. His mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1997 and they lived off her disability allowance. It was in the same year that Koum’s father became ill and passed away. His mother too eventually succumbed to cancer and passed away in year 2000.

At the age of 18, Koum developed an interest toward computers. He taught himself computer programming by purchasing manuals from a used-book store and returning them after he was done. He then enrolled in San Jose State University and moonlighted for Ernst & Young as a security tester. After that he worked for search engine company, Yahoo! Inc.

Koum’s work involves inspecting Yahoo!’s advertising system, which led him to cross paths with Brian Acton (later co-founder of WhatsApp).

Over the next nine years, Koum and Acton were pulled in to help launch Yahoo!’s advertising platform. Koum recalled Acton’s words, “Dealing with ads is depressing. You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better,” Koum was not happy with the situation as well.

In September 2007, Koum and Acton decided to resign from Yahoo!. After taking a one year break, Koum and Acton started looking for jobs. Both applied and got rejected by Facebook Inc. It was two years later in 2009 that Koum bought an iPhone and realised that the App Store would unlock future potentials. Koum had the idea of an app that would allow people to send text messages via the internet instead of sending SMSes. He named it WhatsApp that sounds like “What’s Up”.

It became an instant hit among iPhone users after the app was uploaded to the App Store. Koum insisted not to sell ads on the app after his bad experience dealing with ads at Yahoo! for years. WhatsApp was growing big worldwide and the founders decided to charge an annual rate of USD1 to its users. They were surprised to know that users are willing to pay to use the app.

WhatsApp gradually brought in USD5000 in revenue every month by 2010. Acton helped out Koum by investing USD250,000 in WhatsApp. As a result Acton was named co-founder of WhatsApp. By early 2011, the number of users are growing at an immense rate, and it is adding an additional million users everyday.

WhatsApp became one of the top 20 of all apps in the U.S App Store. Two years later, Sequoia invested another USD50 million. This resulted in WhatsApp being valued at USD1.5 billion.

In 2012, Koum received an email from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was very interested at what Koum built and hinted to Koum at his interest in combining their two firms.

After two years, Koum and Acton signed and sealed the deal with Zuckerberg on the door of the welfare office where Koum used to collect food stamps.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock in February 2014. Its by far the most lucrative engagement in tech history.

This deal seals Koum as tech’s new billionaire, pocketing USD6.8 billion after taxes. The agreement also appoints Koum as Facebook’s new board member – a rags-to-riches story that should inspire all nerds out there.

Source: JobStreet.com, the No.1 job site in Malaysia, thesundaily.com

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Startup’s components of a support system, govt incentives, market access – part 5, 6, 7


How components of a support system nurture nascent companies – part 5

Startups_IncubatingGeared up: A participants in the 1337 Accelerator programme demonstrating a gaming app, Agent RX — a single player top down stealth game. The app can be used on a desktop and be enhanced with the Oculus. Difference between Accelerator and Incubators: Infographic:  https://infogr.am/infographic-79580 via @infogram

Over the course of grooming startups, the industry has perhaps grown familiar with the terms “incubator” and more recently, “accelerator”.

These organisations, part of the modern support system for new entrepreneurs, have helped startups take shape in their early stages.

In almost all cases, participation in an incubator or accelerator programme has enabled entrepreneurs gain access to resources beyond their own to scale their business. Services such as regulatory and strategic expertise that otherwise may not be available to independent startups become more readily available.

And because of their seemingly similar functions and involvement with early-stage startups, incubators and accelerators are often mistaken to mean the same thing. But they are not.

An incubator is essentially a physical work space that hosts a new business with many other startup companies. Startups are usually allowed to stay in the space as long as they need to and mentorship is typically provided by the incubator or through peers at the facility.

An accelerator programme, on the other hand, is limited to a three- to four-month period intended to accelerate a startups’ business and the kick them out of the nest. Accelerators often make investments in the companies they support and provide a strong network of mentorship. These programmes typically culminate in a “pitch day” for startups to raise more funds from venture capitals.

In Malaysia, both private and government funded incubators have been set up in the Klang Valley over the past few years as the government pushes for the growth of more local entrepreneurs and startups.

But it may come as a surprise to some that there is only one proper accelerator model in Malaysia, known as 1337 Accelerator.

1337, pronounced “leet”, started in March last year with an initial government funding of RM5mil to invest in startups. The programme has two intakes a year where budding tech-entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to join the programme to develop their ideas and take them to market.

“We invest in the best minds in the country. The teams here have to earn their way into the programme. They have to go through a stringent panel to see if they have an investor-worthy idea and can contribute back to the ecosystem,” said Bikesh Lakhmichand, chief executive officer of 1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd.

He explained that accelerators are more mentor-driven and are directly involved with the development of the startup.

According to Bikesh, accelerators are the way of the future for startups, noting that the trend is growing globally to create a more vibrant startup community.

However, incubators, too, have their appeal.

As incubators do not invest in startups, entrepreneurs are able to maintain full ownership and control of their companies while tapping onto facilities provided by the incubators.

Among incubators in Malaysia, many would probably be familiar with Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) and MAD Incubator.

TPM spans some 650 acres of land in Bukit Jalil with total lettable business and incubation space of 725,000sq ft.

Its president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Azman Shahidin said the number of companies at TPM has grown to more than 200.

Companies that have been selected for TPM’s incubation programme will be guided through a hand-holding and business coaching programme over a duration of six to 18 months. Here, they will be equipped with knowledge on product development, marketing techniques, R&D and networking.

“Our main role is to accelerate the growth of small businesses. We are here to grow and be the catalyst for these companies. And we have seen some companies here that have grown to become listed companies,” Azman said.

MAD Incubator has also seen good traction with its facilities and had launched its third incubator in Malaysia in the middle of the year.

While different in nature, both incubators and accelerators play an important role in boosting early-stage venture. One model may not necessarily be better than the other. But interested startups should be clear on what they want out of these supporters to get the best out of these facilities

 

Govt incentives for startups - part 6

 

Startups_Govt support

Ample opportunity: Malaysia provides many initiatives to fund startups. Recently Axiata Group Bhd launched Axiata Digital Innovation Fund, a RM100mil venture capital fund, with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap). Its group president and group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim (right) is seen here exchanging document with Mavcap chief executive officer Jamaludin Bujang (left). Looking on are Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

Silicon Valley has long been known as a hub for high-tech innovation. The southern part of the Bay Area is home to many of the world’s largest companies and thousands of startups including Facebook, Google and eBay.

But Silicon Valley was not an overnight success story. It took decades of government funding and support to make it the vibrant tech cluster it is today.

Policymakers play an important role in supporting the growth of a startup ecosystem. Be it in funding research and technologies or in building infrastructure, government help create ideal conditions for innovation and commercialisation.

In Malaysia, the government has announced various initiatives, including financial allocations, over the years to groom entrepreneurship and support the startup ecosystem.

In the Budget 2015 speech, the Prime Minister noted the government’s aspiration to position Malaysia as a choice location for startups in the region.

And among its efforts to achieve this target is the establishment of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) to create a more conducive ecosystem for startups.

Financial assistance

One of the most crucial ingredients for the development of startups is funding and several government agencies have been established to dispense pre-seed and seed funding to enable startups to transform ideas into commercially viable products and ventures.

These agencies include not-for-profit organisation Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd and venture capital company Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (MAVCAP), both under the purview of the Finance Ministry.

As a VC, Mavcap makes direct investments with fund size ranging from RM1mil to RM20mil and participates actively in the management and operations of these companies.

Mavcap also invests through its Outsource Partners Programmes, whereby it allocates capital to other VC fund management companies to invest in high-growth businesses.

Cradle offers a maximum seed funding of up to RM500,000 to help technology companies attain commercialisation.

Tax incentives

The government has also introduced tax breaks to encourage private investments in startups as well as promote the setting up of high-tech companies in Malaysia.

For example, the Angel Tax Incentive allows angel investors who have invested in early-stage startups to qualify for tax exemption. This would indirectly see more fund flows to startups and also encourage eligible angels to participate in the ecosystem.

There are incentives for ventures that have obtained MSC Status including a 100% investment tax allowance and duty-free importation of multimedia equipment.

Building skills

Various programmes have also been initiated to build entrepreneurial and technical skills as well as encourage interest among the local community to venture into the startup scene.

MaGIC recently launched its partnership with Stanford University, which, among its programmes, would send entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley for a two-week immersion programme.

The partnership will also see an exchange programme whereby local entrepreneurs will be able to learn from the Stamford faculty on marketing and commercialising their ideas.

Another significant component of the partnership is the “Faculty Train Faculty” Programme where faculty members from 14 local universities will be sent to Stanford over the next three years to help them develop impactful and creative entrepreneurship programs in their respective universities.

Early this year, MDeC announced its MSC Malaysia Startup Accelerator Lite programme to help early-stage ICT startups map out and accelerate their goals.

MDeC is also working with partners such as JFDI Asia, a regional startup accelerator, to help mature and globalise the local startup community.

Government agencies are actively seeking partnerships with startup communities and small and medium companies in other countries to provide local startups with an opportunity to learn from and potentially partner with startups abroad as well as explore other markets.

Market access can be as important as funding for startups – part 7

 

Startups_market access

Sealing the deal: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd Ceo Jamaludin Bujang (left) and Axiata chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim at the event announcing the RM100mil Axiata Digital Innovation Fund recently. The fund will focus on helping startups gain access to markets. — Bernamapic

BEYOND just starting a business, a startup company’s main purpose for being is to offer a product or innovation that addresses a problem.

As one investor puts it, a truly innovative product will solve a customer’s problem that has not been solved before.

But one of the challenges of introducing a new product or innovation is that it has not been tried or tested. Naturally, the market may be slow in embracing such an innovation.

Additionally, startups rarely have the capacity or network to tap into new markets to bring their products out.

As such, investing partners, with their strong networks and deep pockets, play an important role in the startup ecosystem by providing the kind of market access needed by startups to reach potential customers.

Corporations, investors and even the government are increasingly recognising this need and are providing platforms for startups to tap into, beyond just early and growth-stage funding.

For example, early last year, Telekom Malaysia, the Multimedia Development Corporation and StartupMalaysia.org collaborated on an accelerator programme focusing on getting startups to market quickly.

More recently, telco giant Axiata Group Bhd and Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) recently signed an agreement to establish a RM100mil venture capital fund, the Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF), to help companies with innovative products in the digital-services space markettheir offerings.

ADIF will focus on revenue-generating companies that may still require support to grow in terms of funding, know-how and market access.

Axiata noted that digital-services entrepreneurs will have unprecedented access to regional partnership opportunities among other things, thanks to its extensive market reach of over 13 million customers in Malaysia and over 250 million across Asia.

Given Axiata’s many years of operations in the region, these startups are also able to leverage the telco’s in-depth knowledge of the regional market.

Likewise, Alliance Bank’s SME Innovation Challenge 2014 programme provides participating startups with an opportunity to be coached by corporate titans, a platform to network through, and access to markets.

When new products are launched, startups and their investors concentrate the bulk of their initial efforts on educating the market about what the products offer.

But entrepreneurs understand that having an innovation with little visibility and access to markets does no good.

Startups are now seeing the need for opportunities to tap into existing networks and markets, coaching, exposure and resources, offered by incubation and accelerator programmes.

In other markets where the startup ecosystems are more mature, the private sector and governments have introduced programmes to tackle market-access issues for startups.

These include the US Market Validation Program run by Silicon Valley-based tech accelerator, US Market Access Center, and the Market Access Grant administered by the Irish government to incentivise companies to develop viable and sustainable market entry strategies for new products and markets.

While such efforts have yet to become well established here, different players in the local ecosystem are becoming more aware of the need to provide startups with market access to ensure better chances of success.

By Joy Lee The Star/Asia News Network

■ This is the seventh instalment of MetroBiz’s tie-up with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.

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It’s not news if it’s good, the Western news


The success story of regional integration in Latin America today is seldom heard elsewhere in the world, even as people there experience it daily.

LATIN America has been experiencing a progressive, historic but silent revolution for 10 years now. However, few people in the rest of the world seem aware of it.

The silence is not because these countries had sought to avoid world attention. Rather, the international media dominated by Western news agencies seem to have other priorities.

Often enough significant events and key issues are neglected, bypassed by the saucy, the sensational and the scandalous – all that glitters is not gold, much that matters may never be told.
CNBC
Without exception, Western news agencies have doggedly promoted the so-called Arab Spring to the point of tedium.

The standard bogeymen of Western storytelling – Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad – are going or gone, so jubilation in Occidental newsrooms may be expected. But there should be limits and other (news) priorities too.

Elsewhere, countries that succeed outside Western norms, dictates and development models may seem unimportant or “politically incorrect”. So they are routinely ignored or underrated.

Worse, the changes said to be wrought by “Arab Spring” uprisings are said to be positive when the exact opposite is happening.

In virtually all these countries, living conditions have deteriorated rather than improved.

But the nine countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that came together in 2004 as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) have been making great strides in every critical area of national development.

Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela have raised standards of living for their people in social, economic and political terms.

Standards in housing, health care, education and employment have risen. These countries have also scored a high 0.721 in the UN Human Development Index, which measures national achievements beyond economic growth and material development.

On Dec 14, 2004, Venezuela and Cuba signed the joint declaration for the establishment of Alba. The alliance is based on humanist principles that place the citizen rather than the state or the corporation at the centre of national policymaking.

This people-centred alliance soon attracted the interest of other countries. Next to join were Bolivia, then Nicaragua, and Dominica, with Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines joining together – followed by St Lucia.

Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis will be the next members. Other countries attending Alba summits as Participants are Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis, and Uruguay.

With a proud record of a decade’s achievements under its belt, Alba marked the passage of its first decade at a forum in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Ambassador Lourdes Puma Puma of Ecuador explained Alba’s background and objectives, including the use of the Sucre (Unified System for Regional Compensation) as a virtual currency in trade among member nations.

There is also a Bank of Alba with regional integration as its core purpose. The bank encourages and offers financial support for projects that promote the social development of all the peoples of the continent regardless of race, religion, politics or other background.

The areas that Alba covers in promoting regional integration are comprehensive and ambitious. There are medical schools and a health sciences university with scholarships, and a pharmaceutical company and a drugs regulatory centre with free access to medication.

There are plans for a new financial architecture and an emphasis on science and technology, without neglecting the arts.

There are also awards and scholarships for literature, culture, research and cinematography.

Alba is also working with the People’s Trade Agreement that lobbies for the social, cultural and environmental rights of the region’s peoples. It also works with Petrocaribe, an alliance of nations over oil purchases, as well as Mercosur, a regional customs union for advancing free trade and the movement of goods, people and currency.

The guest speaker at the Kuala Lumpur forum was Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Interna­tional Movement for a Just World.

Dr Chandra identified the significant distinction between Alba and other regional organisations in the way it places priority on the human being, the individual person, in public policymaking.

This humanist aspect of a caring regional society that Alba seeks to build is widely cherished by the national leaders of its member countries. And despite a priority on economic development, Alba is also conscious of environmental needs and emphasises sustainable development.

In pursuing technology, Alba also seeks independence of telecommunications content in programming. Telecoms and broadcasting community services will also be provided to rural and other marginal areas.

Despite their achievements, Alba countries are still developing nations with much to do to achieve full development status. In the meantime basic needs have not been forgotten, with a food fund that has cut malnourishment to under 5% in four Alba countries and eliminated illiteracy in five countries.

More broadly, Alba seeks a more multipolar world that avoids war as a matter of policy. It much prefers human development that addresses the real needs of real people, particularly the most disadvantaged members of society.

Alba is named after the great 18th-19th century Venezuelan leader and liberator Simon Bolivar, hailed as a Latin American independence hero and a regional beacon of progress and development.

Bolivar is the only person in history to have two countries named after him: Bolivia, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Bolivar’s goals for Venezuela and its neighbouring countries labouring under the Spanish colonial yoke may be summed up in four basic priorities: a popular and participatory democracy for the people, economic independence for real development, fairer wealth distribution and elimination of corruption.

In the Latin America of his time, Bolivar led territories that included Bolivia, Colombia (then including Panama), Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. As a political and military leader he fought many private and public battles against slavery and for the liberation of his people.

Bolivar died in 1830 at the age of 47. He had paved the way for democracy in many countries in Latin America, but much else remains to be done.

After an era of cruel dictatorships, Latin America is again ready to embrace its history of decency and human achievement. But obstacles remain in the way of Alba countries, particularly when they seek their own way to development.

They prefer a more direct way that impacts positively on the people, particularly the most vulnerable in society such as the poor and the weak. Thus they avoid the customary assistance from powerful transnational institutions that comes with strings, cables and levers attached.

And yet when the UN established the Bretton Woods aid organisations the World Bank and the IMF, they were also supposed to help the poorest without encumbering them. But a problem with institutions is that their practices become institutionalised and worse.

Alba has been established with much goodwill and its achievements have been impressive.

Alba countries deserve support and admiration for their record so far, and encouragement on their promise.

Alba emerged from Venezuela’s rejection of the proposed Free Trade Area for the Americas, which would heighten inequality by enhancing the power of transnational corporations at the expense of the poor.

Neither the World Bank nor the IMF may want to call Alba’s achievements a “miracle”, but they are miraculous nonetheless.

Holding court: Chinese President Xi Jinping's (centre, right) meeting with members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Some have argued that anxieties about China's dominance of the new bank would be dispelled with more founding members. - EPARelated article:

Sound policies require maturity – The Star Online

 Oct 26, 2014 – When major international policies are based on short-sighted self-interests and emotive impulses, problems are never far away.

Behind The Headlines By Bunn Narara

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Terrible week for US Spaceflights: NASA rocket explodes, Virgin spaceship crashes


Virgin_spaceshiptwo-crash-wreckage

Wreckage from Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft is seen after the vehicle crashed on Oct. 31, 2014 during a test flight out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The burgeoning field of spaceflight suffered two serious blows this week.

The bad news began on Tuesday (Oct. 28), when Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket exploded just seconds after blasting off on an unmanned cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA. Then, on Friday (Oct. 31), SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight; one of the two pilots aboard was killed and the other injured, apparently seriously.

The causes of the two accidents are unclear at the moment, and so are the consequences. But the fallout could be huge for Orbital Sciences, Virgin Galactic and the entire private spaceflight industry, which has been building up some serious momentum over the past several years.Photos: SpaceShipTwo’s Test Flights

Video Explosion! Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft Destroyed In Launch Mishap | Video http://www.space.com/27575-explosion-cygnus-cargo-spacecraft-destroyed-in-critical-launch-mishap-video.html#ooid=loMmdlcTprBMxCnB86X4sRusEF-8Khv-

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences holds a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to make eight robotic cargo runs to the space station using Antares and the company’s Cygnus spacecraft. Orbital had completed two such missions without incident before Tuesday’s rocket explosion.

Another company, California-based SpaceX, also signed a deal to ferry cargo to the space station for NASA. The agency is paying SpaceX $1.6 billion to fly 12 unmanned supply missions to the orbiting lab using the firm’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. So far, SpaceX has flown four of these missions, and all have been successful.

NASA is also looking to the private sector to take astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. Last month, the agency awarded SpaceX and Boeing multibillion-dollar contracts to continue developing their crewed vehicles — a manned version of Dragon in SpaceX’s case and a capsule called the CST-100 for Boeing.

NASA officials hope at least one of these spaceships is up and running by 2017. The agency has been dependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to and from the space station since 2011, when NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired.

NASA officials expressed confidence in Orbital Sciences after Tuesday’s launch mishap, citing the company’s two successful supply missions to the space station. The agency also seemed to affirm its commitment to private cargo delivery.

“Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback,” Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites — the company that built the six-passenger, two-pilot SpaceShipTwo — are dealing with a tragedy that claimed a life.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson has previously expressed hope that commercial operations of SpaceShipTwo will begin sometime in 2015. Friday’s crash, which occurred during the suborbital space plane’s fourth rocket-powered flight and 55th overall test flight, will almost certainly push that timeline back.

But Virgin Galactic representatives vowed that they will continue their work to get SpaceShipTwo up and running. And the entire industry will bounce back as well, said Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port in California, which hosts SpaceShipTwo’s test flights.

“It hasn’t been an easy week. It’s certainly been a challenge,” Witt said during a post-crash news conference Friday. “But where I’m from, this is where you find out your true character.”

By Mike Wall @Spacedotcom

EDITOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS

Malaysian Internet users, technology trends, evolution and change in telco industry


MAXIS: Data takes dominance

Maxis' CEO Morten Lundal
Net effect: According to Lundal, productivity for the future depends on the degree of Internet adoption.

When I came to Malaysia last year, I was assuming that I was going back into an emerging market which is a transition from the place I worked (London).”

“But my perception now is that this is actually a very advanced market,” says Morten Lundal, chief executive officer at Maxis Bhd, whose tenure at the company just crossed the one-year mark as of Oct 1.

Among the reasons that he feels differently about the nation’s technological progress is because of the high smartphone and broadband penetration rate.

“Malaysians’ adoption and smartness when it comes to using (mobile) applications is fully comparable with Europe,” he says.

People on our network use about 1GB per month. Some devices use more. Android more than iOS devices, I’ve noticed. We have people on Android using about 1.3GB or so per month. Both on prepaid and postpaid, people are using a lot of data in Malaysia.”

However, he points out that the local e-commerce market has yet to fully develop.

“Companies here are still fairly traditional in the way they operate. People have much more (technologically) advanced experiences personally,” Lundal says.

“This is going to change in the next five years, but it hasn’t come about yet… The corporate sector is lagging behind more mature markets in Europe.”

However, on the whole, he regards Malaysians as being “very savvy.”

In addition to common online activities such as the use of search engines, social networking sites and real-time GPS services like Waze, Lundal has noticed several distinct trends amongst Maxis’ various user segments.

For instance, he says youth between the ages of 18 and 25 years tended to favour mobile games and streaming video services such as YouTube. He also found Asian youth to be more attracted to image based social media sites such as Instagram as compared to their European counterparts.

“The Chinese are driving more online shopping than other segments and that’s quite interesting,” he says, adding that the Malay segment is active on online forums, games, social networking and instant messaging whereas the Indian segment is more focused on sports, news, instant messaging and social media.

As for the older generation, Lundal says they tended to be more “news savvy” and spent a lot of time online surfing news portals.

“They also use much more hobby and personal interest sites which are less important to the youth. So they are the more functional users of the Internet whilst the youth are the social users.”

Meanwhile, the migrant workers segment had an obvious preference for international news, particularly from their respective home countries. They also liked online comics more than most Malaysians.

Internet breeds change

One of the good things that Lundal sees out of the growing mobile networks across Malaysia is that it enables the general population to gain better access to the Internet.

Besides that, he says that “innovation for IP (Internet Protocol) communications is tremendous”.

However, he sees the ongoing buzzword of the Internet of Things (IoT) as a mere cliche.

“I first heard about IoT in 1998, I think. It’s like a very old expression and the enablers have been in place for years, but it really hasn’t happened yet. I think it is going to happen now, but in a five year perspective,” he says.

As the Internet continues to impact the way society operates, Lundal envisions a shift in the way things are done in the corporate and public sector.

“Productivity for the future more or less equals to what degree you’ve adopted the Internet,” he points out.

“As the younger workforce demand a more advanced technological infrastructure where they work, I think this will drive a big change in how enterprises and the government operates.”

Another disruptive trend that Lundal has noticed is the way users are moving away from preprogrammed content and websites.

“It’s fascinating to see how people are choosing very segmented niche content and making that their default,” he says.

In particular, he points out that youth, especially in countries like the United States, are preferring to consume news via late night comedies and social networks instead of through traditional channels.

“This unpackaging and unbundling of these channels will cause a massive societal impact and change.”

Courting change: As disruptive technologies and trends take hold, telcos including Maxis are faced with the challenge of evolving its business to meet the growing needs of its subscribers.

Telco evolution

As these trends continue to take shape, telcos across the globe, including Maxis, are faced with the challenge of evolving its business to meet the growing needs of its subscribers.

“As an industry, we as mobile operators were used to connecting people to our services. Now we connect people to the Internet,” says Lundal.

“We’ve gone from a decade of selling enablers like phones and connections to now really leveraging those enablers to change lives and companies.”

One of the major changes being faced by the industry at the moment is the dwindling emphasis on SMS and traditional voice calls.

“As an industry, we haven’t innovated on SMS… It’s the same product as it was when it was launched which is unacceptable, I would say, from a consumer’s perspective,” Lundal says.

“SMS is declining a lot globally and will be gradually replaced by IP communication. But for now it’s still widely used because when people want to be sure that the communication is getting through, they use SMS.”

In contrast, he says voice calls are also declining in importance, but at a much slower pace than was expected.

Lundal expects to see SMS fading in importance within the next three to five years whereas for voice communications, he feels it would only decline over a span of four to eight years.

In response to that, he says revenue models for mobile operators are changing globally to become more data centric.

“About 99% of our costs are driven by data,” Lundal says. “It’s a very dangerous situation indeed to have your revenues coming from voice (calls) while your costs are driven by data which is why there is a shift all over the world. That’s a bit slower in Malaysia as players are getting weaned off their old habits.”

However, he adds that he does not view this change in product emphasis as a threat, but rather “a transition that we all have to go through.”

Road to improvement

Over at Maxis, Lundal shares that the company is keeping pace with these changes in technology in three ways.

Firstly, it aims to project itself as an Internet showcase within the Malaysian economy.

“We would like to be in the forefront on how we adopt the Internet ourselves,” he explains. “We also want to change how Malaysian companies operate and help them in their process of being digitised.”

His vision for the future is that Maxis ought to be viewed as a mobile app.

“I like to take extreme positions in order to make people think differently,” he says. “I said to management that we should close our website in three years’ time. Not entirely close it, but probably it will morph into something else. The key interactions with our company should be through an app.”

Besides that, Lundal shares that Maxis is working on ensuring it offers an “unmatched customer experience” to its subscribers, calling it the company’s “flagship programme.”

“We have just built a new network for 70% of our customers this year. The rest will have that experience by next year. This is so that when it comes to the speed of data networks and dropped call rates, we will be world class,” he says.

He is quick to point out, however, that “top class doesn’t mean it’s perfect.”

But according to him, the number of complaints directed to Maxis in the past year has decreased by as much as 50%. As for dropped calls, he says it is currently at the rate of one in 300 calls.

“There are two reasons for that: our network is dramatically improving even though it’s not perfect and we have also taken some pretty drastic, proactive measures to make life better for customers by taking away any pay-per-use charges (for data usage).”

He is referring to the MaxisOne postpaid plan here, whereby subscribers of this Internet plan are not charged for their phone calls and SMSes.

As for the prepaid side, the company also offers a free basic Internet connection of 64Kbps (kilobits per second) for its Hotlink product which Lundal claims is fulfilling a need that most users face.

“Most Malaysians prepaid customers are connected to high speed data (networks) only six to eight days per month and they’re buying daily passes. For the rest of the time, they’re unconnected and they’re trying to find a WiFi connection,” he says.

Last of all, Lundal shares that Maxis is transforming the way it operates internally as well.

“We’re going to rid ourselves of this habit of using paper processes and use more Cloud and mobile instead,” he says.

He says Maxis plans to implement a new human resource system that is Cloud based and accessible via mobile. It has also launched a new intranet and social networking platform for its employees.

On the whole, Lundal says Maxis is setting new benchmarks for itself to achieve.

“We don’t compare ourselves anymore (to competition) nationally, we compare ourselves internationally,” he says.

Contributed by Susanna Khoo The Star/Asia News Network

China’s Internet giants, Tencent to undercut Alibaba with billion chat app users


CHINA's Internet giants


Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700) faces the prospect of losing its position as Asia’s most-valuable Internet company this year after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) goes public. The Shenzhen-based company isn’t going to concede quietly.

Tencent is taking on Alibaba in almost every business related to the Web, from games to security to search. In the latest escalation of the battle, Tencent is expanding in messaging services and using the technology to drive customers to its e-commerce partners — in a direct challenge to its rival.

The fight exposes a rare vulnerability for Alibaba, which is planning an initial public offering that may be the largest in U.S. history.

Tencent has an enormous lead in messaging, with about a billion users for its QQ and WeChat products, compared with Alibaba’s last target of 100 million for its offerings.

Tencent is projected to report a 52 percent surge in profit when it announces second-quarter results today, bolstered by messaging.

“Tencent is using Mobile QQ and WeChat to take traffic away from Alibaba and direct people to e-commerce platforms backed by itself,” said Bill Fan, a Hong Kong-based analyst at China Securities Co. “Instant messaging hasn’t been Alibaba’s strong point, but it sees the viral effect that Tencent’s app is having so it’s trying to develop similar services.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., 24 percent owned by Yahoo! Inc., is competing with Tencent… Read More

Tencent’s two technologies let people trade messages over mobile phones and tablets, akin to the WhatsApp service that Facebook Inc. (FB) agreed to acquire this year for $19 billion.

QQ, which began as an instant-messaging service on desktop computers and was repurposed for use on mobile devices, has about 848 million monthly active users. WeChat, known as Weixin in China, has 396 million. (WhatsApp has more than half a billion active users.)

Most Valuable

The success of the messaging services has helped boost Tencent’s market value to about $161 billion, making it the most valuable Internet company in Asia.

Alibaba will compete for that title after it goes public. The latest estimate is that after the IPO the company could be valued at $187 billion, according to a survey of 11 analysts by Bloomberg. Tencent shares declined 0.2 percent as of 9:52 a.m. in Hong Kong trading, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index was unchanged.

Alibaba is trying to close the gap in messaging. In September, it started offering a service called Laiwang. Still, Tencent has continued to expand the features available through its apps to maintain its lead

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
QQ and WeChat helped triple Tencent’s mobile-game revenue to 1.8 billion yuan in the… Read More

“In the latest version of QQ, we have upgraded it to a platform for food, drinking and entertainment, and the number of cities we cover is also expanding,” said Dowson Tong, president of the company’s social network group that oversees QQ, in a recent interview.

Revenue Boost

Tencent has integrated games more tightly into its messaging services to capitalize on the China online gaming market, which IResearch projects will expand to 225 billion yuan by 2017.

QQ and WeChat helped triple Tencent’s mobile-game revenue to 1.8 billion yuan in the first quarter from the previous three months.

That trend likely continued in the second quarter. Tencent’s profit rose to 5.59 billion yuan in the three months ended June, according to the average of 11 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

That would make the second successive quarter with profit growth of more than 50 percent. Earnings climbed 61 percent in the three months ended March 2011.

QQ was the first iconic product billionaire Ma Huateng created at Tencent in 1999, two years after AOL Inc. (AOL)’s messaging service took off.

As more Chinese accessed the Internet, instant messaging became the most popular online app. Ma restructured QQ’s divisions in 2012 to take it mobile and the effort paid off.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
QQ was the first iconic product billionaire Ma Huateng created at Tencent in 1999, two… Read More

Last year, 83 percent of China’s Internet users subscribed to Mobile QQ and 80 percent to WeChat, compared with Laiwang’s 23 percent, according to a survey among almost 4,000 people by Shanghai-based IResearch in June.

Stake Purchases

Tencent is now leveraging its vast user base to go after a bigger share of the China e-commerce market, which IResearch estimates will more than double from last year to 21.6 trillion yuan ($3.5 trillion) in 2017.

The company in March took a 15 percent stake in JD.com Inc., a direct competitor to Alibaba, and folded its own e-commerce assets into the venture. This year, Tencent has also agreed to buy 19.9 percent of Craigslist-like 58.com Inc. and take a 20 percent stake in Dianping.com, a website similar to Yelp Inc. that users review restaurants in China.

Single Click

Tencent has been working closely with JD.com and Dianping, directing traffic from Mobile QQ and WeChat to the websites, said Tong.

Those steps are beginning to yield results. A new single-click link to JD.com from Weixin produced an eightfold increase in daily transaction volumes compared with an earlier access that took two clicks, JD.com said in June. This month a similar integration with JD.com was provided to users of Mobile QQ.

Still, Tencent and its partners are far behind in e-commerce. Alibaba, which operates platforms including Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com that connect retail brands with consumers, accounted for 76.4 percent of total mobile retail transactions in China, according to its IPO filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The fact that Tencent wrapped its e-commerce assets into JD.com shows it wants to limit its investment in the segment, said Yao Yue, a Shenzhen-based analyst with Morningstar Inc.

“Even if Tencent’s instant messaging apps can direct a lot of traffic to JD.com, at the end of the day it still depends on who has the better shopping service, and Alibaba’s Taobao is dominant,” said Yao.

Alibaba hasn’t been able to achieve the same success in mobile messaging so far. The company in 2004 started Aliwangwang, a PC-based instant messenger for buyers and sellers, that is now used for negotiating prices, customer services and delivery notifications on its Taobao marketplace. It also has a mobile version called Wangxin.

Lagging Behind

Laiwang was started by Alibaba to broaden its reach, after billionaire founder Jack Ma alluded to Tencent being ahead in the messaging race at a Credit Suisse conference in March 2013.

“We also invested heavily, but we are not that lucky and not creative, so creative like Tencent, which has WeChat, such a powerful thing,” Ma said at the conference.

Ma has vigorously tried to promote Laiwang and said the company wouldn’t pay bonuses to staff who didn’t get 100 clients for the app before Nov. 30 last year, according to a post on the company’s microblog.

In an attempt to generate revenue from Laiwang, Alibaba said in January it would offer games on the app. A month later Alibaba’s Ma said the company’s achievement on mobile applications wasn’t satisfactory.

Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih declined to comment on the company’s mobile strategies, citing pre-IPO restrictions.

Jin Yuan, a Shenzhen mobile phone user, underscores the lead that Tencent has in messaging. Jin has been a QQ subscriber for the past 13 years and says Tencent does a better job of making messaging apps that are easy to use.

“I use QQ to keep in touch with friends I’ve known since the PC age and I use it for a lot of group chats,” Jin said. “I like to use WeChat a lot for sharing information about good places for food.”

By Lulu Yilun Chen Bloomberg

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Tech-Dome Penang project to be ready by 2015; Skilled Staff in Demand in Penang


Penang Tech-Dome_artist

About Tech-Dome Penang

Tech-Dome Penang is an initiative by the Penang Science Cluster to create a hub for technology learning and exchange of ideas. It will be a vehicle for improving scientific literacy and technology ability in Malaysia.

Located at the geodesic dome of KOMTAR just adjacent to the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site in Penang, visitors will discover the exciting world of technology and how they work by exploring the world-class exhibits in its galleries. Regular programs will be conducted for schools, colleges and families that are specially designed to cultivate the spirit of inquiry and teach children and teenagers the skills required to thrive in a high-tech, knowledge-based future.

OUR MISSION

  • To inspire children and students to become future technologists and nurture the interest to use and invent technology.
  • To cultivate the spirit of inquiry and nurture the passion to thrive in the fields of science, engineering and technology.
  • To showcase the progress of the world’s technology and innovation.
  • To highlight the convergence of technology, industry and people.

Why Do We Need Tech-Dome Penang?

We believe that learning is a lifelong journey of discovery and is not just limited to school lessons. Families, young adults and entrepreneurs are always looking for new ideas and stimulating and meaningful ways to spend their time. By creating Tech-Dome Penang, we will offer visitors fun-filled learning and a place to share ideas and be inspired.

For Penang and Malaysia to remain competitive in the global economy, we must continue to nurture and develop our ability to use and even invent technology. However, the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that the standard of mathematics and science among Malaysian students have been dropping since 2003, and compared to all other countries, Malaysia is the country with the biggest and most drastic drop in scores from 1999 to 2011.

According to the Ministry of Education, less and less students are taking up science at the STPM level. This shows that fewer students are interested in participating in the fields of science, engineering and technology. Tech-Dome Penang aims to reverse this trend and will strive to cultivate curiosity and nurture the passion to thrive in these fields.

Tech-Dome ready by 2015 

THERM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project, a private initiative with endorsement from the state and Federal Government, aims to beoperational by end of 2015.Penang Tech Centre Bhd chairman Datuk Wong Siew Hai said Tech-Dome, to be located on the fifth floor of Komtar with a 32,000sq ft built-up area, would showcase robotic, electronics and computing and lighting technologies.

“It will also exhibit the history of Penang’s industrialisation, spearheaded by the electronics and IT sectors.

“We have appointed Huettinger, a renowned company from Germany, as design consultant for the project.

“Huettinger is a technology-engineering company specialising in exhibition planning, providing consultation services, and manufacturing of exhibits,” he said in an interview yesterday.

American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce governor and Malaysian American Electronics Industry chairman Datuk Wong Siew Hai was a panelist at the Roundtable on Graduate Employability organised by KDU University College, held at the Damansara Jaya Campus at Petaling Jaya.(21/01/2014/S.S.KANESAN/The Star)
[ Wong says a fully programmable robot called Robo Thespian will be created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain visitors to the science centre. ]

Wong said Tech-Dome would serve as a science centre to inspire children and students to become future technologists and also to nurture their interest to use and invent technology.

“Instead of taking children to movies and shopping, parents will have the alternative to take them to visit Tech-Dome during weekends.

“A robot built by Huettinger will be employed for meeting, greeting, and interacting with the public.
“Known as Robo Thespian, the robot is a fully programmable humanoid robot created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain,” he said.

Wong said the Tech-Dome had so far collected RM3.65mil, of which RM1.15mil came from the state government with the remainder from the corporate sector.

He added that the private sector had also pledged to donate RM2.3mil for the project.

“We still need another RM17.35mil which we are confident of raising by the end of 2014.

“Those who sponsor now will be known as founding sponsors of the project,” he said.

Penang Centre director Yap Soo Huey said unlike other science centres, the Tech-Dome would not just exhibit products.

“It will be designed to link the exhibits to scientific principles and their applications,” she said.

By David Tan The Star/Asia News Network

Penang Tech Centre To Complete Tech-Dome By 2nd Half Of 2015

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 5 (Bernama) — Penang Tech Centre Bhd strives to complete the RM23 million Tech-Dome Penang project by the second half of 2015.

General manager Richard Chung Chok Yin said the renovation work to house the centre at the Tun Abdul Razak Complex’s (Komtar) Geodesic Dome would begin next month and take nine months to complete.

“We still need to raise about RM10 million from the private sector and the public to bring this project to fruition,” he told reporters here Tuesday.

Chung said donations could be made online via www.techdomepenang.org and tax-exempt receipts would be issued for contributions above RM50.

A private initiative with endorsement from the state and federal government, the Tech-Dome Penang is aimed at improving scientific literacy and technology acumen among Malaysians.

Earlier, Penang Tech Centre director Yap Soo Huey said a series of roadshows themed the ‘Magic of Science’ would be held in Gurney Plaza, Queensbay Mall, Gurney Paragon and First Avenue Mall from Aug to Dec to create public awareness on the Tech-Dome Penang.

“The roadshows will showcase science and technology-related activities on nature, math and science, life sciences, robotics and astronomy, mainly for children up to 15 years,” she said.

– BERNAMA

Financial hiccup – needs RM10mil boost

RM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project seeks public donation to help cover RM10mil shortfall. THE RM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project, a private initiative with endorsement from the state and Federal Government, is still short of RM10mil.Status update: (From left) Chung, PTC director Datuk Lim Kok Khong, Yap, PTC steering committee member Ang Lye Hin and representatives of sponsors at the press conference.

Penang Tech Centre Bhd (PTC) general manager Richard Chung said they needed the financial support from corporate sectors and the public to help turn the project into a reality.“We welcome any form of public donation. I am sure with such support, we should be able to make further headway in this project,” he said during a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

Tech-Dome Penang is a science and technology centre that aims to be a hub for technology learning and exchange of ideas.

The state government, besides granting the use of Komtar Geodesic Dome to house the centre, also provided seed-funding for the project. The centre is expected to be ready by second half next year.

PTC director Yap Soo Huey, who is also Pulau Tikus assemblyman, said the project would brand Penang as a hub for innovation and creativity.

She said cities that were known for being dynamic, progressive and innovative always boasted of having science and technology centres.

“Look at San Francisco and Amsterdam. That speaks volume of the city itself.

“Besides, wehave been hearing that our education syllabus is too rigid, employees either cannot think out of the box or lack ideas when seeking a solution.“The purpose of Tech-Dome is to address all this. We want to inspire our children to see how technology can be different and how knowledge can be applied to produce wonders. Education is not just about memorising,” she said.

As part of brand-building and public awareness, Tech-Dome Penang will organise nine roadshows scheduled to take place at the various shopping malls in Penang until the end of the year. Each roadshow will last for two days.

The first roadshow will be held at Gurney Plaza this weekend followed by Queensbay Mall (Aug 30/31), Gurney Paragon (Sept 13/14), Queensbay Mall (Sept 20/21), Gurney Paragon (Nov 29/30), Gurney Plaza (Dec 6/7), Queensbay Mall (Dec 13/14), 1st Avenue (Dec 20/21) and Gurney Plaza (Dec 27/28).

The roadshows, themed ‘Magic of Science’, will showcase various science and technology-related activities and games focusing on nature, mathematics and science, life sciences, robotics and astronomy for children aged up to 15.

The public will be able to participate in interesting hands-on activities from noon till 7pm during the event days.

More details on the roadshows can be obtained from http://www.techdomepenang.org or via Facebook /techdomepenang.

Donations can be made at the roadshows. Tax-exempted receipts will be issued for contributions above RM50 or via the website.

Skilled Staff in Demand – Jobs await seekers

Over 2,600 vacancies in various sectors are waiting to be filled and more investors are coming to Penang to offer greater employment opportunities abound including high-value positions over the next few years.

A new investor coming to Batu Kawan has about 300 positions to fill in 2016 and 1,000 in the following five years. — DATUK LEE KAH CHOON

AS of July 2014, there are 2,635 jobs available in Penang, of which 74% are for positions as junior executive and above.

Of the 2,635 jobs, some 475 are in engineering, 222 in marketing and business development, 185 in general and cost accounting, 185 in manufacturing, and 170 in IT-software, while the remaining 1,538 are for vacancies in other sectors.

InvestPenang executive director Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the openings were reported in a popular job portal.

Feedback received by investPenang and Penang Career Assistance and Talent (CAT) Centre, shows there are a number of multinational corporations (MNC) with various vacancies to be filled up.

Lee said a Japanese MNC in Seberang Prai was looking for technicians and engineers as part of its exercise to fill 1,500 vacancies.

“An American MNC in Bayan Lepas is also looking for 50 design engineers, while in the services sector, there are vacancies for 60 finance and accounting officers.

“A new investor coming to Batu Kawan has about 300 positions to fill in 2016 and 1,000 in the following five years.

“Another newMNC in BatuKawan requires 540 vacancies to be filled by the end of this year,” he said.Lee said the proposed Penang Business Process Outsourcing Prime project was expected to generate about 21,000 high-value jobs over the next five years.

“Penang is expanding from high-capital expenditure manufacturing and the state’s next growth wave hinges on investments in shared services outsourcing and other services that create higher value job opportunities for the people.

“However, the challenges of availability of right talents and well-trained workforce that meet demands of global investors have to be urgently addressed,” Lee stressed.

Lee said CAT was now working on setting up a fund to provide eligible students with scholarships and loans to pursue tertiary education.

“We are now talking with MNCs and philanthropists in Penang to set up such a fund for CAT to disburse to students, who will then work in MNCs during their vacation and upon graduation,” he said.

Lee also said investPenang was now arranging for foreign students to serve their internship in MNCs here.

“Students from New Zealand should be here next month for their internship in the local MNCs,” Lee said.

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