Zero to One

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zero to one

Reading Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One right now. I’m almost through the book. It’s a great book to read if you are an early adopter, entrepreneur, or technologist. When asked what the title “Zero to One” actually means by NPR, this is Peter’s answer:

The basic idea is if you sort of think about innovations where there’s someone who builds a first airplane or first home computer or first smartphone that works like the Apple iPhone, these are what I call zero to one innovations. And I think technology involves intensive, vertical, zero to one progress. Globalization involves horizontal, copying, one to end progress. And we’ll need both of these in the 21st century. China is sort of the epitome of globalization. What China does is copy things that work. And it has a very straightforward 20-year plan which is to make itself look more like the U.S. and Western Europe. For the developed world – Japan, Western Europe, the United States – progress is a much trickier thing in 21st-century because to take our civilization to the next level, we need to actually do new things. And so I think the question of how do we develop the developed world is a question that’s not often asked but is worth for us to look about a lot more.

 

 

In the following conversation between Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel, you can learn more about the context of this book.

 

Open Message to CoInvent NY Meetup Group

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Earlier today, I sent this message out to the CoInvent NY Meetup group regarding the upcoming CoInvent Startup Summit:

Good morning,

At CoInvent, we are always looking for better ways to make things more efficient, scalable, and impactful. This morning, I would like to introduce our debut startup conference – CoInvent Startup Summit. We plan to roll it out in our New York market first in 2014 and then nationwide in 2015. With the launch of this conference, our goals/priorities remain the same. They are:

  • help founders/startups/businesses connect with potential customers/users, partners, investors
  • help founders/startups/businesses extend their runway via opportunities to raise more funds or create more revenues
  • help founders/startups/businesses make better hires by connecting them with passionate and like-minded individuals
  • help founders/startups/businesses find a better product/market fit and get advice from industry insiders

I think those four goals are pretty inclusive and applicable to most early- to growth-stage startups and companies. The Dec. 16 conference focuses on addressing the “Software Eating The World” theme – the disruptive roles that technology plays in our daily lives. All talks and panels feature industry experts and insiders. With this announcement, I have both good news and bad news. Bad news is that we only have a few hundred tickets, which are likely to be gone soon. But the good news is, you can start ordering tickets now at www.coinvent.co/events/cssny14­, which is the ONLY event registration site. We have introduced 20% – 30% of the speakers thus far. They are:

  • Ryan Feit – CEO and Co-Founder @ Seedinvest
  • Ari Rabban – CEO and Co-Founder @ Phone.com, Inc.
  • Mark Wachen – Managing Director @ DreamIt Ventures
  • Charlie Kemper – Co-Founder and Managing Director @ Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator
  • Dino Dogan – Founder and CEO @ Triberr
  • Nick Taranto – Co-Founder and Co-CEO @ Plated
  • Miranda Tan – CEO and Founder @ MyPRGenie, Inc.
  • Nihal Mehta – Founding General Partner @ ENIAC Ventures
  • Mallory Blair – Co-Founder @ Small Girls PR
  • Jonathon Ende – Founder and CEO @ SeamlessDocs

For more speakers, check out www.coinvent.co/events/cssny14­

When: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM,  Tuesday, Dec. 16th
Where:
Anchin Block & Anchin LLP
1375 Broadway #23, New York, NY 10018

For new speaker updates, subscribe to our newsletter at www.GetCoInvent.com.­ For conf sponsorship opportunities, shoot us a note at www.coinvent.co/sponsors­.

Cheers,

-andrew (@andyrwong)

The original message can be found at www.meetup.com/coinvent/messages/boards/thread/47677432.

5 Questions about Hong Kong’s Occupy Central (占领中环)

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The Occupy Central movement – also known as Umbrella Revolution – has lasted for exactly 7 days now in Hong Kong. Why Beijing doesn’t grant Hong Kong full democracy can be clearly understood since a completely autonomous electoral system in Hong Kong means that Beijing must give up political controls in one way or another. Now that Occupy Central has garnered much international attention, here are the 5 questions that I have about this movement:

1. will Beijing compromise eventually?

2. how far are the protesters willing to go for what they call the true western-style universal suffrage?

3. will the movement take away the freedoms that Hong Kong does have now?

4. is the movement really affecting Hong Kong’s economy, and to what degree?

5. will the Umbrella Revolution end peacefully or violently? What happens next?

This is a raw video that Vice created documenting what’s really happening now in Hong Kong. As the movement unfolds, I hope some of the above questions should get answered soon.

A Few Thoughts on On-Demand Car Sharing & Where It’s Going

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Software is indeed eating the world. It affects every facet of our lives. We can feel it wherever we go. Recently, I found myself hitting the Uber and Lyft apps on my iPhone more often than ever. Here were some recent experiences I had with these rideshare apps:

1. For my recent trip to west coast, I got to test both a cab and Uber from Los Angeles International Airport to Santa Monica and vice versa. The cab cost me $50.45 and, the Uber ride cost $22.90 as shown below.

2. Since Lyft gave me a bunch of free riding credits, I’ve been using Lyft a lot lately especially in NYC.

2014-09-29 09.07.38

3. Last Saturday, I was trying to get a Uber or Lyft to get to 45th St & 3rd Ave (from 23rd St & 7th Ave) for a conference. Instead of paying the surge price advertised by Uber and Lyft of at least $14, I got a yellow cab, which cost me 10 bucks.

 

The above observations tell us that rideshare apps can make our lives easier sometimes. But in other times, it has its drawbacks. I am a big proponent of the on-demand car sharing industry, and have been thinking a lot about its long term sustainability. In my opinion, here are the 3 macro external factors that I perceive will shape the future of this industry:

 

Government Regulation

For a long time, Uber has been known for fighting legal battles from DC to San Francisco to Europe. A German court has recently banned Uber’s service nationwide in Germany, imposing one of the biggest legal challenges Uber had ever faced. If Uber continued its operations in Germany, it could face fines of up to $330,000, or its local employees could be jailed for up to six months, according to New York Times. In addition to local regulations, rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are also facing other legal challenges such as driver insurance and airport policies. A Houston Chronicle explains it very well regarding why some airports in the US consider banning rideshare pick-ups and drop-offs:

In all cases, the airports are huge revenue engines for the cities, which treat the airports as quasi-governmental entities that operate under a board of commissioners. With so many taxis, shuttles and others using the airports to make money, the airports take a cut by requiring permits. Ideally, that means roads are improved and the airport is designed with huge taxi and shuttle demand in mind. The permits and fees are nothing new, and they’re similar in their setup to the paid parking common at airports.

 

Competitive Forces

Competition plays a big role here. As I mentioned before, services that Uber and Lyft provide are, essentially, commodities, which means they are replaceable and interchangeable. For consumers, they are just an app away from the next one available. Recently, Lyft has seen its drivers’ income drop by as much as 48% in certain areas in CA due to cancelled rides by recruiters hired by Uber. Lyft has also added the a feature in its app to flag Uber recruiters. As consumers, we couldn’t help but wonder how much money these rival forces will spend to fend off each other during these attacks. In addition, there seems to be an influx of new rideshare apps springing up especially in Asian market these days, which makes the on-demand car sharing industry extremely crowded and competitive.

 

Driver Strikes

I’ve found that drivers in rideshare industry are increasingly entrepreneurial these days. Some of them have very high earning expectations. So when Uber extends a customer discount and cuts deep into drivers’ wages, it’s not uncommon to see the following scene, where Uber drivers gathered outside of Uber’s Long Island City offices in early September to protest the low fares.

grid-cell-30869-1410476390-9

Photo by Uber Drivers Network via Facebook

 

Despite all these challenges, I am still a big believer of the on-demand car sharing industry, because I personally have benefited tremendously from the convenience that these services provide. Due to that very reason, CoInvent has partnered up with Via – a rideshare service in premium vehicles driven by professional chauffeurs for just $5 a ride. Right now, the service is only available in selected areas in Manhattan (primarily the UES and Midtown East, with expansion coming soon). I believe in the Via service because, if it’s successful, it’s possible that it will change my entire commute habit in NYC. Currently, I’m paying at least $2.50 (subway) when I take public transportation from point A to B in NYC. With just $5 a ride, I wouldn’t mind paying another $2.50 to make my life hassle-free. I have to admit that Via is one of those big ideas that get you excited and curious.

For readers of my blog and CoInvent members, you can now use code “COINVENT106” to get 3 free rides when you download the Via iOS or Android app. If you plan to attend our NYC startup mixer on October 6th, you can use their service to get to and depart from the venue – Iron Bar (713 8TH AVENUE in NYC). Via will have enough drivers and cars on the group that evening. You can also come to the event to chat with the Via team on October 6th since they will be showcasing their product. We look forward to getting your feedback on this product!

Recap of CoInvent SF Launch Event

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Last Tuesday’s SF Launch Event was well received by the Bay Area startup community. Although it was our first event in SF, close to 400 people RSVP’d for our event. Compared to NYC and LA, SF has a more developed tech ecosystem. When we talk about SF Bay Area, we think about symbolic things such as Silicon Valley, Y Combinator, Stanford, or Sand Hill Road. CoInvent is happy to start building its presence there, even though it means we will be a little fish in a big pond. Our next SF event is schedule at GA’s new location at 225 Bush Street, which, according to what I heard, is three times bigger than their current space. In the meantime, enjoy this recap.

 

4 Key Takeaways from The Alibaba IPO

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alibaba

I wrote about this in this week’s CoInvent newsletter. Just I’d post my thoughts here again. Here is the original content from the newsletter.

There certainly has no lack of coverage of Alibaba’s IPO last week. For those of us living in the States, Alibaba may not be as relevant to our lives as, say, Amazon.com. However, when you take over 80% of China’s e-commerce market, you can take over the world. According to a Reuters report, Alibaba IPO ranks as world’s biggest after additional shares sold – $25 billion raised, surpassing the 2010 record of $22.1 billion set by Agricultural Bank of China.

As an entrepreneur, here are a few things that I learned from the Alibaba story:

  1. Your customers are the king! Treat them well and they will take care of the longevity of your business
  2. No matter whether you are running a 10-person startup or Fortune 500 company, have a global strategy, because the majority of your customers in 10 years will be coming from developing countries – assuming if your business can last that long
  3. Silicon Valley is not the only game in town. Now you can pretty much build a household startup name from some top cities in the rest of the world – LA, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul, New Delhi, etc
  4. Have a revenue strategy for your startup from the get-go. At one point, Alibaba had no revenue and almost got killed by eBay in the China market. That’s when they introduced Taobao (淘宝网), which is now one of the world’s top 10 most visited websites according to Alexa

To get our weekly newsletter, you can subscribe for free at www.GetCoInvent.com.

Introducing CoInvent Startup Summit

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CSS

One of the benefits about going national with CoInvent is the fact that now we can make things more scalable and impactful. I’ve always wanted to start a national conference series which provides great and useful content and networking opportunities for startups, entrepreneurs and investors alike. I am glad that we can finally launch it today – introducing CoInvent Startup Summit.

We are launching this conference series only in New York for now. We should be able to bring it to our west coast markets in early 2015. This year’s startup summit focuses on addressing the “Software Eating The World” theme. Via multiple 20-minute talks, we are hoping to cover a variety of industries that technologies are disrupting – including fashion, social, media, education, banking, just to name a few. Each of these sessions will be structured via panels or individual talks. As the organizer, CoInvent will strive to bring only A-list speakers to this forum. We know how little time entrepreneurs have and certainly don’t want to disappoint you with mediocre content.

With this announcement, we are introducing a few speakers as well. You can check them out here. More speakers will be added in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned. Early bird tickets are available now. We hope to see you on December 16th at this inaugural event. Feel free to contact us if you have any speaker suggestions.

Apple’s Big Announcements

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iPhone 6 and 6+ both have become available today (Sept. 19). In this past Monday’s newsletter, I shared my thoughts on Apple’s most recent three announcements: iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay. You can read this entire newsletter here. I’m reposting it here:

Apple made three big announcements during last week’s Apple event – iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay. Here is my take on either of these:

a. New iPhone: In this category, Apple is not the innovator anymore. Samsung had bigger screens for its phones a while ago. These days, even Xiaomi’s phone screens are bigger than the current iPhone. But why do people still go nuts about Apple’s new iPhones. The answer is simple. Because it’s Apple.  Apple is capable! Apple can deliver! Even Tim Cook said himself: “We didn’t have bigger-screen iPhones because the technology wasn’t ready. But it’s ready now!”

b. Apple Pay: Apple Pay uses a combination of NFC and Touch ID for authorizing mobile payments. According to Bank Innovation, Apple is getting 15 cents of a $100 purchase. This is an unprecedented deal, giving Apple a share of the payments’ economics that rivals such as Google do not get for their services.

Apple Pay is also headed for China through a partnership with UnionPay. In that market, Apple Pay will face very formidable challenges from existing payment players such as WeChat and Alipay. Just this morning, TechInAsia reported that Tencent’s WeChat just introduced in-store payments for Dairy Queen and 8 other chains. That’s exactly what Apply Pay is doing. Back in January, Alibaba also said that about 30,000 brick-and-mortar outlets were accepting in-store payments via its Alipay app.

c. Apple Watch: This move from Apple is inevitable. Wearable is the future. Enough good things said about the Apple Watch. But here are a few concerns I have:

1. Apple Watch can currently only be paired with an iPhone to be functional. Does that mean when you go for a jog, you need to bring your iPhone with you? A huge inconvenience.

2. Watch has a much smaller user interface than your typical iPhone or iPad. If you are used to the touch screen interfaces on your current iOS devices, it would be very hard to apply the same user gestures on a smaller watch screen.

3. The biggest achilles heel for the Apple Watch is probably its battery life, which is reportedly only able to last for less than a day. Apple has from now to early next year to tackle this problem before the Apple Watch gets shipped. From there, the user expectations will either go through the roof or tank like the Titanic.

Apple definitely had its most glorious day since the iPhone launch. Can’t wait to enter the new Tim Cook era!

Our newsletter goes out each Monday. You can subscribe at www.GetCoInvent.com.

It’s Just A beginning for Alibaba

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Alibaba officially priced its U.S. initial public offering for $68 per share today, which values the company at $167.62 billion, making it among the largest IPOs in history. Alibaba will trade on the NYSE tomorrow. If you have no idea what Alibaba does, I suggest you watch this documentary – The Alibaba Story – Crocodile in the Yangtze.

Alibaba has captured 80% of Chinese e-commerce market and is aiming to do the same in the west. Under Jack Ma’s leadership, I believe the IPO is just a beginning of a new era for this global e-commerce giant. So what is Alibaba and what does it do? I get asked this question a lot. Check out the following videos.

 

Overview

[Read more...]

Recap of CoInvent LA Launch Event

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Last night, we held our first-ever CoInvent event in Santa Monica. Over the course of last month, folks have been warning me how hard to get a big crowd together in LA, unlike New York, because everybody will be driving from different places. But over 350 people signed up for last night’s event. We had a great turnout.

I want to give a big shout-out to our big sponsors and partners that helped make last night’s event possible – General Assembly, Handy, and FreezeCrowd. Special thanks to our guest speaker and my friend – Espree Devora, known as “the Girl who Gets it Done,” from #WeAreLATech.  Here are some memorable moments from the event.