Jul 142015

Battered by a declining Chinese market for its manufacturing goods, Taiwan is having to look elsewhere for its economic growth.

Startups are one idea report Reuters News describing how the Taiwanese National Development Council set up HeadStart a year ago to create an tech entrepreneur ecosystem by relaxing regulations for registering start-ups, matching funds invested into projects and creating tech hubs.

So far HeadStart has attracted around $US 438 million in funds and now Alibaba founder Jack Ma says he wanted to set up a $300 million fund to support Taiwanese entrepreneurs.

While the Reuters piece focuses on the ecosystem built around fading smartphone maker HTC and the major computer chip fabricators, Taiwan’s strength may well lie in its small business roots as much of the island’s industrial strength has been built, like Japan’s, on its army of small family firms supplying the larger companies.

That Taiwan needs to diversify its economy is a warning to other less advanced economies that depending on a narrow band of exports leaves a nation open to external risks. It might be time for others to be looking at how to encourage their entrepreneurs.

Image of Taiwanese bronze buddha by Shirley B through freeimages.com

Jun 052015
stock investments.

The emergence of Chinese companies and their listing on US stock exchanges has been one of the features of the country’s rise over the last decade.

Now Reuters reports the tide may be turning as disaffected Chinese companies shift back to local stock market listings to counter what they believe are under valuations from US investors.

Two of the notable things about the Chinese stock markets have been the lack of transparency and their volatility.

It may be the current attractive valuations are part of that volatility with the Shanghai Composite stock index having more than doubled this year as opposed to the S&P 500 being up a comparatively disappointing five percent.

For Chinese companies, the relative transparency and discipline of US market listing rules also promised to raise their internal management standards.

The US markets also gained from the Chinese listings as these cemented the nation’s position as the world’s tech centre, with the attraction of American markets fading an opportunity opens for European and Asian exchanges.

Overall, the withdrawal of Chinese companies from US stock exchanges would be a shame for both countries as it makes each of them stronger.

Mar 292015
chinese hydrogen powered tram

China doesn’t have many trams but that might change soon as the coastal city of Qingdao rolls out their new streetcar system.

What makes Qingdao’s system particularly notable is the trams will run on hydrogen with water being the only by-product of the vehicle.

The Qingdao city leaders hope the hydrogen trams will reduce the chronic air pollution the city, like most Chinese urban centres, suffers.

Should the trams be successful, hydrogen fuel cells will be another shift from mains electricity and motor vehicles. As we’re seeing, being off the grid might soon be a viable option.

Jan 242015

“We’re crazy, not stupid” is how Jack Ma describes his Alibaba team in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.

Much has been written about Jack Ma and the spectacular success of Alibaba and the WEF session with Charlie Rose is an opportunity for Ma to flesh out the story and destroy some of the myths.

One of the fascinating anecdotes Ma tells is how US cherry growers are preselling their harvests to Chinese customers through Alibaba and cites various other primary producers doing similar campaigns as how American small businesses can sell into the PRC market.

Ma’s interview is a fascinating snapshot of how global trade is going through a radical period of change, the shifting of China’s economy and where the future lies for many industries.

Jan 162015

Where do Chinese tourist like to travel to? One of today’s links looks at where the modern PRC tourist likes to go. Other links include how jaywalking became a crime, Samsung’s attack on the low end Indian smartphone and how disguised Starbucks may be popping up in your suburb.

Kicking off today’s links is an examination of how Zappos’ CEO and founder Tony Hsieh is carrying out a daring experiment on the management structures of his company.

Zappos’ strange management experiment

No-one can accuse Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh of thinking inside the box, his experiment with new form of management called holacracy is another example of how he tries to do things differently. Whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen.

How Jaywalking became a crime

Vox tells of how cars took over our cities’ streets during the early Twentieth Century. It’s an interesting description of the political, social and economic forces at work as the effects of the automobile started to be felt by our communities.

Lost spacecraft found on Mars

“It was a heroic failure.” Britain’s Beagle space mission to Mars ended in mystery when the lander vanished just before Christmas 2002. Now it’s been found. I find this story quite touching.

Your local cafe might be a stealth Starbucks

Like McDonalds, Starbucks is facing structural changes in its market. One of the ways both companies are responding by launching experimental new stores. Some of which might be near you without you knowing.

Samsung launches a sub $100 Tizen phone in India 

Just as the car changed the Twentieth Century the smartphone may well be one of the critical technologies that shapes this era. Cheap phones in emerging markets are the equivalent of the Ford Model T a hundred years ago.

Samsung’s move is a response to the Chinese manufacturers who are dominating that market. That Samsung is using their own Tizen operating system rather than Android which most of the Chinese companies use is something worth watching.

Where are Chinese tourists going

As Chinese manufacturers look to emerging markets as their economic future, the country’s tourists are exploring the world. This article laments how those PRC travellers are ignoring London and the UK but also has some interesting observations about the destinations they prefer.

Jan 122015

Chinese tourism and Mao’s influence on the US Marines are today’s links along with Tesla’s slow start in Australia.

Tesla rolls out in Australia

As part of Tesla’s Australian launch of its electric vehicles, the company has announced a chain of charging stations along the country’s East Coast, unfortunately not everyone is pleased to see them.

Chinese tourists look to Japan and the US

Japan and the US are the most sought after destinations for Chinese tourists reports the Wall Street Journal. Both countries have relaxed travel restrictions for China nationals in the last year and now they are reaping the benefits, particularly Japan which is only a few hours flight from Shanghai and Beijing.

Interestingly, New Zealand and Australia are also big improvers on the list with them coming in third and fourth on the list.

The US Marines’ Maoist connection

A curious article on Medium describes the origin of the term ‘gung-ho’ and how it was introduced to the US Marines through a Mao sympathising American General. “He may be red, but he’s not yellow” is how his contemporaries described Brigadier General Evans Carlson.

Jan 102015
we need to treat chinese markets carefully

Today’s links have a distinctly Chinese flavour around them with a look at how the country’s smartphone manufacturers are coming to dominate their market, Tencent’s plans for global domination and how property developers are looking to the internet to save their falling sales.

Uber and Microsoft make their regular appearances to round out the links in their changes to billing and security.

Chinese property developers turn to the web

Faced with declining sales, Chinese property developers embrace – the Internet!

How Chinese smartphone makers are beginning to dominate the market

The rise of China’s smartphone makers: 10 of the top 17 smartphone manufacturers now come from China.

An interview with Tencent

Business Insider has an intriguing interview with one of the VPs of Chinese internet giant Tencent.

In his Q&A, S. Y. Lau discusses how Chinese communities are seeing their incomes rise due to the internet. One of the famous case studies of connectivity are India’s Kerala fishermen who used SMS to arbitrage their market. We may be seeing a similar story with Chinese tea farmers.

Microsoft restrict warning of patches to paying customers

In a short term money grabbing exercise, Microsoft have unveiled a plan to only inform enterprise customers of upcoming security patches. My prediction is this won’t last.

Uber cuts prices

Car hiring service Uber has cut its fares in thirty US cities while guaranteeing drivers their incomes. This is probably a move to keep competitors like Lyft at bay.