Newspaper stalls, too, can innovate for the digital age

I attended primary school in the 1990s. Usually over the weekend, without the burden of homework, I had a fun time reading the papers that my parents bought from the newspaper stall outside the neighbourhood’s wet market.
The newspaper was my window to the outside world. Not anymore. The last time I bought a newspaper was in 2009, when I took a news writing course. Today, I know what is going on around the world with just a click of the mouse on the internet.
While today’s traditional media are striving to go digital, with varying degrees of success, this does not seem to be an option for the thousands of newspaper stalls in Hong Kong. With the business declining and hardly any new blood joining, these stalls will possibly disappear in between the city’s skyscrapers in the years ahead, unless measures are taken to revitalise this sunset business.
It is thus heartening to learn that some newspaper hawkers are now trying to ride on the booming e-commerce business to develop a new source of income. Several community-based newspaper stalls have partnered with a local delivery service company to provide pick-up services for online shoppers.
The Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association, too, is trying to diversify the business, and is exploring aggregating links to the websites of what it calls grass-roots business members on its own websites. The idea is to let the small businesses promote their product using the citywide network of newspaper stalls.
Some newspaper hawkers are also adjusting their product portfolio, as they are selling to mainland tourists more Chinese publications that are not available on the mainland because of their political sensitivity.
It is still too early to tell whether these adaptation methods will succeed. But some policy support will help. Now that the government has wheeled out its plan to introduce food trucks in part to boost tourism, perhaps it should consider marking on the map the location of the proposed trucks, based on the network of newspaper stalls. In this way, tourists can enjoy specialty food and conveniently buy something special from the newspaper hawkers, including some locally designed souvenirs and product.
This is one of many ways to revitalise the traditional business and prevent it from dying. The newspaper stall may no longer be the window to the world for me, but it can become a window of other sorts, for instance, the window for local start-ups to grow their business, and also for visitors to take home something special.
source from SCMP

Silicon dreams: Can Hong Kong cultivate a successful start-up culture?

Local entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and government officials are determined for Hong Kong to be a key start-up hub, but many hurdles remain in the path to becoming ‘Asia’s Silicon Valley’

Hong Kong's banking district, Central. The city is attempting to diversify from its key pillars of finance and construction with support for start-ups and innovation. Photo: Bloomberg
Technologically savvy, rich, minimally taxed, and with strong links to the world’s second largest economy without the restrictions and risks of doing business in China proper, Hong Kong seems ideally suited to being a major regional start-up and innovation hub.
And yet many insiders are wary about the future, pointing to competition from other regional hubs, lacklustre or misallocated government support, a conservative investment community and a deficit in talent that forces some businesses to outsource event the most basic tasks.
In his 2015 budget speech, financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah was bullish about the city’s start-up environment and promised the government would do more to support it, including expanding the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation’s micro-financing scheme and injecting HK$5 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund.
“I hope to improve the ecosystem for local start-ups and technological enterprises to tie in with the general direction of moving our economy up the value chain and enabling local industries to diversify,” Tsang said.
Chief executive Leung Chun-ying has also pushed for the creation of a new government department to replace the disbanded Information and Technology and Broadcast Bureau, promising HK$35 million in initial funding. Though this plan has been largely placed on the back burner following opposition in the Legislative Council.
The value of promoting innovation is clear. A study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Google, released on Wednesday, estimated that the development of two per cent more newly registered Hong Kong businesses per year would create more than 338,800 new jobs and increase the city’s GDP by an additional 0.24 per cent in the next four years.
Tsang’s pronouncements however were met with a collective shrug from the local start-up community. Many local innovators feel they have achieved success in spite of government, not because of it, a view some experts agree with.
“Government-led innovation is an oxymoron,” said David Webb, deputy chairman of Hong Kong’s Takeovers and Mergers Panel.
Webb was a strident critic of Cyberport, the government funded incubator established in 1999, particularly the decision to award the development contract without open tender to Richard Li Tzar-kai, son of Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing.
“There’s a tendency for political leaders to attach their names to projects that bring hope … to get some buzz out of supporting technology with the idea that it would somehow promote the economy,” Webb said.
“They generally make things worse.”
“It’s a gigantic mistake to assume the government will do anything for you,” tech journalism veteran and co-founder of Re/Code Walt Mossberg told an audience in Hong Kong last month.
Mossberg was speaking at an event organised by StartUpsHK, which holds regular conferences and networking events for founders, investors and prospective entrepreneurs.
“We took it upon ourselves five years ago to create a community for Hong Kong,” said Casey Lau, who co-founded StartupsHK with Gene Soo in 2009.
“At that time in Hong Kong, everything was very silo-ed, everyone was doing their own thing,” Soo said.
“There were successful start-ups, like JobsDB and [restaurant review aggregator] OpenRice, but … it didn’t spread in the community, people didn’t know what was going on.”
Soo and Lau started one of the city’s first co-working spaces, an idea that has grown in popularity dramatically since.
“We take a little bit of credit for starting that, it’s the main thing StartUpsHK has done.”
Those spaces have expanded from simple shared offices into sprawling, well-funded and resourced incubators and accelerators such as Nest and Blueprint.
Launched by Swire Properties in 2014, B2B incubator Blueprint provides free office space, mentorship and connections to capital for local and international start-ups.
“Swire is a great example of how the private sector can get involved,” said Soo, though he was frustrated that the company was something of an exception rather than a rule.
“There are many traditional families and businesses [in Hong Kong] that don’t really understand this space and it would be great to have them take a greater role.”
The conservatism of Hong Kong investors is a common refrain among other entrepreneurs and start-up founders.
“Our investors are predominantly from Greater China,” said Norman Cheung, co-founder and chief executive of storage start-up Boxful.
“The VC players are much more active in China, the market there is so much larger. The money those start-ups are raising is incredible.”
“It’s easy to raise seed capital in Hong Kong. It’s much harder to find the million, two million dollar investment. We’re not a city that’s ready for this kind of growth,” said Lau.
Cheung agrees: “I think there are a lot of angel investors, but once you get into the A and B [funding rounds] it starts to get tough.”
According to the Google and CUHK study, 88 per cent of local entrepreneurs stated their major source of seed capital as self-funding, with only 8 per cent securing venture investment.
This conservative culture affects start-ups in another way as well: talent.
One start-up founder told the Post that she’d witnessed a gaggle of employers pitching their companies to graduates of a beginner-level front-end development course, so desperate were they for even moderately skilled workers.
“Hong Kong has a big shortage of technology talent, we’ve had a lot of trouble building up a good team,” said Cheung.
Richard Rayles, operations director of Philippines-based outsourcing company SuperHero, said he gets enquiries from Hong Kong companies on a weekly basis, though he was quick to point out the city is “not the only market with a digital talent shortage”.
Some start-up founders said the shortage is due to competition with finance for developers.
TT Chu, co-founder of image recognition start-up Brand Pit and a graduate of CUHK’s engineering school, said that “every year in that faculty there are 600-700 people graduating, all of these people have been trained on how to do programming.”
The problem, Chu said, is that “people love to go into investment banking”.
Big salaries aren’t the only thing causing young Hongkongers to avoid start-ups, many are afraid to take the risk that joining a new venture inevitably entails, and those who may want to are often dissuaded by their parents or friends. Some 43 per cent of budding entrepreneurs considered social and cultural norms when deciding whether to set up a business, according to the Google-CUHK study.
Tytus Michalski of venture firm Fresco Capital wrote recently that Hong Kong needs to “pass the mom test”.
“We need to convince all of the moms in Hong Kong, including the tiger moms, that entrepreneurship is a serious option for their children,” he said.
Education can play a role in this, Yat Siu, chief executive of digital media company Outblaze, told an audience at the Post’s inaugural Game Changers forum last month.
Siu said the city should learn from the Finnish education system, which places less emphasis on formal exams.
“If you think about my children going to school and the way they’re being educated … it’s still turning out bureaucrats,” he said.
Despite these hurdles, the Hong Kong start-up ecosystem has grown by almost 300 per cent since 2009, with several local firms landing high-profile investments.
Experts said that while progress may be slow, the ecosystem will continue to improve as small successes inspire greater ones.
“Hong Kong needs a unicorn,” said Lau of StartupsHK, using the Silicon Valley term for companies valued at over US$1 billion.
“I’d also be happy to see 20 hundred-million dollar companies.”
source from SCMP

Mentally ill people have a business advantage, professor finds

Michael Freeman had long noticed entrepreneurs seemed to have mental health issues.
The clinical professor of psychology at the University of California-San Francisco’s medical school spent a decade at a company where his clients were the founders of businesses. He estimates that about a third of them seemed to have some type of mental health condition.
He still notices the trend today in his work coaching executives.
Freeman and California-Berkeley psychology professor Sheri Johnson decided to take a deeper look at the issue. They begun polling entrepreneurs and found a strong link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurship.
“The people that we admire for being entrepreneurs seem to come from the same gene pool as the people who are kind of socially stigmatised because of mental health conditions," Freeman said. “They must confer some adaptive advantage otherwise they wouldn’t be so highly represented in the population."
Forty-nine per cent of entrepreneurs surveyed reported at least one mental health condition. Nearly a third reported having two or more mental health issues, such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety or substance use conditions. And half of the entrepreneurs who reported no mental-health conditions identified themselves as coming from families with a history of mental illness.
This may seem counterintuitive. Why would an unstable person be most attracted and suited to launch a business?
Freeman points out that there’s a beneficial side to these mental health conditions. Those weaknesses come with corresponding strengths that the average healthy person doesn’t have.
For all of its ills, depression also brings empathy and creativity. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi attempted suicide as teenagers. Uncommon levels of empathy can allow a businessman to better understand a customer’s need. And a creative mind won’t be satisfied on the corporate ladder, but instead in a fast-moving start-up where he or she can unfurl ideas and dreams.
Individuals with ADHD naturally make decisions faster, are comfortable working independently and are more creative; necessary skills at a start-up. They’re also likely to be bored working for someone else.
Shades of bipolar disorder can even benefit an entrepreneur.
“When someone truly has manic-depressive illness and they’re very disabled by it, they’re in and out of the hospital; if you look at their relatives … they are all high-achievers," Freeman pointed out.
“That’s been demonstrated over and over again."
source from The Washington Post



1. 明智收購

2. 摩連奴領軍

3. 心理質素

4. 體能狀態

5. 攻守平衡

做 Keynote 不再口窒窒 五招貼士助你變身 Steve Jobs

有人說 IT 人是技術精英,談科技綽綽有餘,要面對群眾就總覺得不自然,頭暈暈腳震震,但為何 Steve Jobs 又能做得到?現今 IT 人要有職場發展,面對群眾做公開簡報幾乎已經避不了。其實演說並非想像中那麼可怕,只要懂得釋放自己的說話潛能,自然能夠勝任。連高深技術都能駕馭,演說又有何難度?以下一些貼士或能幫到大家。

1. 鞏固自信、從觀眾汲取「正能量」


2. 施展「分心術」、保持眼神交流


3.  減壓有方、舒緩心情緊張

● 眼睛:演說時由左至右,由右至左與觀眾對望。這樣既可保持與群眾的接觸,又能監控全場,減低對環境的恐懼。
● 鼻:出場前不妨來個深呼吸,演說時也要保持平穩呼吸,讓細胞有足夠氧分。
● 口:常掛微笑,俗語有云「一笑遮三醜」,親切笑容可中和緊張氣氛,又能夠拉近與觀眾的距離。
● 肩膀:肩膊的鬆緊是情緒的反射,雙肩放鬆及輕垂,自能舒緩緊張。
● 心:別只顧堆砌華麗言辭,真心說話自有源源不絕的勇氣和衝勁。

4. 「口才」不只代表說話

談到口才,有很多人只著眼於清晰度及流暢性,做到字正腔圓、徐疾有致。然而這就是口才的全部嗎?「怎樣說」固然重要,但「說什麼」同樣關鍵。內容的選材及鋪排、起承轉合都不容忽視。成功演說家會善用「黃金 30 秒」,在出場的半分鐘內盡展渾身解數吸引觀眾。

5. 保持冷靜「執生」有法

緊記「The Show Must Go On」,即使出了亂子,活動仍要繼續,重要是保持冷靜。自己愈亂,別人就愈察覺問題的存在,事情也弄得更大。幾秒內要想出最有效的「下一步」,適合時可以將錯就錯或將計就計,使流程暢順執行。一切視乎環境和觀眾反應。
演說是上不完的課,實踐愈多,領略愈大。你未必能夠像 Steve Jobs 般收放自如,但要做一個有趣的 Keynote 卻未必有想像中那麼難。未來請繼續留意這專欄,一同發揮自己的演說潛能!