March 22nd, 2008

Notes from Beijing Day 5

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1. A lots of Chinese made money from property. More specifically, made money from the property boom (around 2002).

2. A early success of foreign investments, more money continue to flow into China. While 10M fund is huge in 2000, 100M is considered very small by 2006.

3. (1) & (2) lead to lots of money chasing deals. And when there are good deals, they don’t even need to go out of China to find the money, and they get very good deal from investors.

If you are an investor outside China, chances you don’t get to see much good deals coming out of China since 2007.

4. Rumors say that the Chinese government will further restrict foreign investments via the usual SPV structure by the end of the year. Setup a RMB fund as soon as possible.

5. Preferred market to IPO for Chinese companies are Shanghai A-list, NASDAQ and Hong Kong. After that, they will consider AIMS before Singapore, if ever.

Singapore has a bad reputation of giving low valuation (compared to other markets), low liquidity, take too long and cost too much.

6. Just US$100k will get you priority banking in China, which also applicable worldwide.

7. RMB 30 (US$4) for a Starbuck coffee is normal. But taken into the context where Chinese pays RMB 2000-3000 on average, a RMB 30 Starbuck coffee is like drinking a SG$30 coffee for me.

Surprisingly, every Starbuck I being in the last few days are always pack, mostly Chinese.

8. Starbuck’s Wifi is excellent. It is free and it works!

March 21st, 2008

Notes from Beijing Day 4

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1. The CCTV, particular CCTV 9 (English channel), is broadcasting non-stop on the Tibet’s riot, showing videos of how the monks are part-taking in riots, the attacks on civilians and interviews of causalities.

2. There is freaking a lot of regulations on investments in China, with many ways to structure the deal. If not done properly, the exits possibilities may be limited.

Gosh, I did deals here without knowing how challenging those are before! The companies has often claims those are being taken care of. Got to learn more about those.

3. There are four kind of RMB funds, two of which applies for overseas money. Although structure is there, no one use it because the tax implications is unknown. Even tax lawyers do not understand the implications. No one wants to be the guinea pig.

4. Avoid representative office structure. Shutting it down later is a hassle.

March 20th, 2008

Notes from Beijing Day 3

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1. Plan your meetings so you don’t zip-zap across the city. If I have just swap one meeting, I would save so much time.

2. Hipihi is preparing for their launch. Good luck!

3. 官联 pervasive and important in Beijing.

4. The restructuring of China telecommunication market is well-underway. By the end of the year, we will see remaining 3 operators: China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. China Mobile may become the largest fixed-mobile operate.

5. Related to (4) is the 3 new 3G licenses. But it seem unlikely it will happen in 2008. They longer they wait, the better it is for TD-SCDMA – more time to get ready for them.

6. There is no doubt TD-SCDMA will be mandated; The only question left is whether WCDMA and CDMA2000 is allowed.

7. To verify the following history of Xinwei:
– Xinwei SCDMA v3 => 大灵通
– A group from Xinwei doing SCDMA v3 split off to Datang to form the group that did TD-SCDMA.
– SCDMA v4 aka MC-CDMA => Navini
– SCDMA v5 aka CS-OFDMA => claim to be able to do 4.8bits/Hz

8. CS-OFDMA is not to be confused with OFDMA. It is not compatible. CS-OFDMA claims it is able to do 4.8bits/Hz! The technology seem sound tho based on what Dr Xu explained to me.

9. Interesting story to Regulation 56.

Due to a scandal involved some popular personality in China, that leads to the news blackout on traditional media, that leads to the news being carried over Internet, that leads to Regulation 59 being issued in haste along the line “All Internet/Mobile TV must be owned or controlled by Government or shutdown”.

That leads to a panic among the youtube-clones and p2p TV in China that leads to a quiet “clarification” to Regulation 56 a month later that say “All existing operation may control. It will only be applied to the newcomer”.

So from a death sentence, the youtube-clones nows find themselves in a nice little bubble and not need to worry about any further competitions.

10. Speaking of youtube-clones, the market leaders have emerged: tudou 土豆网 and youku 优酷网.

March 19th, 2008

Notes from Beijing Day 2

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1. “What is allowed does not mean it can be done. What is not allowed does not mean it cannot be done.”

2. Foreigners aren’t allowed to trade A-shares, but you can if you really want. See (1).

3. Doing a local fund is really really tough. Even one of the most establish fund in China IDG-VC don’t have a local fund. This means they incur taxes for all their successful exits but not able to offset it against the loses.

4. The Chinese government is really rich right now. Their companies don’t need your investment (most of the time).

5. Tried out the 5 story entertainment. Level 1 – bath, Level 2 – Food, Level 3 – Entertainment, Level 4 – Massage, Level 5 – Private Rooms. Don’t ask about Level 5.

6. 45-60min gap between meetings is important.

7. Alternate meetings between the east and west side of Beijing is a very bad idea. The time I spent on the cab today is enough to bring me to Tianjin and back.

8. Need to plan out a trip to Tianjin.

March 18th, 2008

Notes from Beijing Day 1

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Was thinking of spending Day 1 just to walk around the city and to mingle with the locals. But a coffee session with George Guo in the afternoon leads to series of very interesting meetings. (Thanks George!)

I am going to scribble some notes for my own record.

1. Spend more time with CEO and Song of Chum Investment. Get a local # before doing so. The latter is very important.

2. Keep an eye on Tianjin. Do something in Tianjin.

3. Setting up a PE fund is difficult in China. No, it is freaking difficult. At least for the next 2 years.

4. 908 is unlikely to be removed (unlike what most outsider thinks). The government wont care if there is 3,000 qualified companies in the queue for Shanghai listing or 1,000 on the new board. (2007, there are about 200+ IPOs in China. It is a 10 year queue…)

5. It is easier for Chinese to invest overseas. It is bloody difficult for overseas to invest in China now.

6. (3) to (5) are closely related to how government is doing foreign money control, which is related to the undervalued Chinese Yuan. They really trying to curb the money flow inwards.

7. Send as much money to China as possible. Keep it in RMB. Currency appreciation + 5.9% FD interest. No safer investment ever against the USD.

8. Related to (7), taking the money of China later might be a problem. But I am not trying to take it out anyway.

9. It is still possible to do China IPO oversea with what they call “spac”. Handful of people knows how to do that. Not sure it is worth it right now tho with the market sentiment.

March 17th, 2008

In Beijing

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Have been very busy setting up Thymos Capital last couple of months so wasn’t able to travel much so feeling a bit out of touch. So after postponing this trip a couple of months, I am finally arrived in Beijing last night.

This is mostly a study trip for me, to catch up with old friends and hopefully meeting new ones. I also hope to get a feel of China, which isn’t much as a touch-and-go, but I intend to speak to as many people as possible.

September 24th, 2007

Home Sweet Home (with iPhones)

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30 hours and finally back home in Singapore. It has being a good trip and I have a lot of fun! :-)

Now unlocking the iPhones I bought back. Who wants one?



Okay, I was joking when I say “Who wants one?”. These are for friends who asked me to bring it back for them. Sorry, I am not about to start a parallel import business (nor have the time).

Incidentally, for the hackers out there, these are things you can do to make it more usable in Singapore.

1. If you have data plans (3G or GPRS) with your provider, goto Settings->General->Network->Edge and then enter these settings depending on your provider

Operator Access Provider Network Account Password
M1 sunsurf 65 user123
Singtel internet guest guest
Starhub shwapint guest guest

2. The incoming callerID is kind of screwed when in Singapore. But luckily, you can download this hack/fix (instructions in the zip file). You need to know sftp or ssh so if you don’t know what I just said, ask your nearest geek to help you with it.

3. Call *3001#12345#* on your iPhones to access really field test menu. You can check your firmware using this too:

03.12.06_G is firmware 1.0.0
03.14.08_G is firmware 1.0.1 and 1.02
04.02.04_G is firmware 1.1.1

September 22nd, 2007

People I met

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People I met in Bay Area:

Bruce Schena – Founder of Immersion. Cool guy to hang out when I am in Bay Area again.

David Hornik (August Capital) – One of my favorite VC blogger. Finally got to meet him and I hope to invite to Singapore to talk to the startups here.

Dewayne Hendricks – Finally catch up with him for lunch on Friday after the mishap on Wed. Thanks for the insight on spectrum in US.

Don Park – Very smart guy! Read his blog for years, play WoW with him and finally get to met him.

Jeff Clavier – Ross say he is in office and I drop into his office uninvited. Catch him at a bad time and didn’t have much time. (He remembers me from Supernova 2005)

Keith Teare (edgeio) – Old friend and very smart (business) man. Partner of M. Arrington. Always value his advice (he asked me to move to Bay Area :-)

Lee Felsenstein – Gosh, I didn’t even know I was speaking to THE MAN until someone mentioned the word Osborne!

Loic Le Meur – Old friend. Glad to see him doing very well.

Marc Andreesen (Ning) – No, he don’t travel outside Bay Area :-(

Michael Arrington (Techcrunch) – Need to follow up with him from our short conversation.

Michael Montgomery (Montgomery & Co) – Excellent speaker at the panel of TC40. Another person on my invite list (not sure he needs it tho, since he probably knows more people in Singapore than I do)

Om Malik (GigaOM) – Had coffee with him on Friday at SF. May be in Singapore in Dec.

Shel Israel – Old friend. Wish I have more time to spend to talk to tho but he is busy with family. Family always first of course :-)

William Reichert ( – Wonderful discussion. I am sure we can figure out something to do together.

Ross Mayfield & Phil Wolff & David Beckemeyer – Already covered them in my previous post. Wish I spend more time with them.

Thank you for spending the time with me. I hope to be back soon.

On a separate note, people I wish I have met:

Michael Moritz (Sequoia) – Sadly he left town immediately after Techcrunch

Ron Conway – Brilliant angel who made wonderful investments like Google & Paypal.

Perhaps next time I am in town. They are one degree apart so I need to make more preparation.

September 22nd, 2007

My Cab Driver in Bay Area

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Meng Weng reminded me to share this story on my blog.

I arrived in SFO on Sunday and took a cab to downtown San Francisco. I have a very jovial cab driver and we have a wonderful conversation. Started innocently with “hows your day”, we slowly move to weather and what do I do for a living.

Then I pop a question: “So whats exciting in the Bay Area”.

He answered: “Well, I think VMware is going to do very well. Their virtualization software is saving a lot of money for the entreprise”.

He then gave me a good 10min talk about what’s so good about VMware software, what the company is doing right, what they doing wrong, and what’s should be their strategy forward.

No, I am not kidding. Only in Bay Area…

September 21st, 2007

San Francisco to Palo Alto

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iphones.jpgHad a wonderful lunch with Phil Wolff and David Beckemeyer at the Silk. I haven’t have so much fun having conversation talking about voip for a while. The industry landscape has changed a lot bu certainly lots of moving. But one take away from lunch is no one has found the “killer” in VoIP yet.

In case you are thinking of “Skype”, Skype has done excellently well for the founders but we aren’t sure it is doing that great for eBay. eBay and Skype could have being two separate company for all intend and purpose. They have two years to integrate….

After lunch, we adjoint to the lobby to wait for Dewayne Hendricks only to discover my rental car disappeared. I was really in panic since everything I have (luggage, laptop and passport) is in the car. I have a sigh of relief when I discover my car has being towed but it didn’t last long when David tells horror stories of stolen stuff from towed car.

To cut it short, I recovered my car with all my stuff (phew!), paid a US$250 fine (that is more expensive than the rental) and missed my meeting with Dewayne :-( I am really sorry.

After that, I drove down to Palo Alto and catch up with Ross Mayfield. He is one of the few people I wanted to meet (we raided together in WoW) but never got around to so I am glad we catch up. He is one of the few people that really knows the vibes of the valley. I heard many good things about BarcampBlock so I am kind of disappointed I missed the event.

Incidentally, I love Palo Alto. I remember very fondly of University Ave when I was staying here in the valley in the late 90s. Coming back bring back a lot of memories…Also pick up a few iPhones yesterday. By “a few”, I mean a “dozen”.

I am now crushing in at Meng Wong place.