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

車路士奪冠的5大理由

車路士於周日英超主場出擊,夏薩特上半場一箭定江山小勝水晶宮,事隔5年後再奪聯賽,英國《電訊報》列出箇中原因何在。

1. 明智收購
去年夏天,車路士的收購明智,迪亞高哥斯達和法比加斯實為捧盃功臣,亦是摩連奴改踢進攻足球的關鍵人物;老將杜奧巴協助「夏神」夏薩特更上一層樓,泰拔高圖爾斯成功接替施治。

2. 摩連奴領軍
不管你是喜歡抑或討厭他,「特別的一個」摩連奴的執教功力早已被球壇肯定,特別是在大戰時的針對性部署。下半季,球隊狀態略為不穩,摩連奴決定改為更具防守性的戰術,避免自暴其短。事實證明此舉具成效。

3. 心理質素
藍軍雖然由頭帶到尾,封王卻不是想像般容易,球員必須克服「領先下鬆懈」的人類慣性,而且衛冕的曼城曾經逼近,而阿仙奴和曼聯下半季亦呈現一段強勢。車路士卻總能夠及時反彈,在各項賽事從未試過兩連敗,心理質素之穩定可見一斑。

4. 體能狀態
車路士的板凳深度其實不算太雄厚,幸好全隊球員保持到一流的體能狀態,共有13名球員在英超上陣20場或以上;雖然「達哥」受傷的時間不短,但整體而言,傷兵並無造成嚴重的困擾。

5. 攻守平衡
今季英超列強要不攻強守弱,要不守強攻弱,但藍軍能夠平衡到攻與守,攻力排名聯賽第2,防守力排名第1,這個冠軍實至名歸。

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。
Steve_Jobs_20071

1. 鞏固自信、從觀眾汲取「正能量」

面對群眾說話往往教人膽戰心驚。假如一下子未能克服心理障礙,或可透過一些途徑去舒緩緊張情緒。嘗試從台下搜尋一些熟悉的面容或親切的笑臉,然後多望他們並報以積極的微笑。
溝通是雙向過程。當我們收到別人的回應,反射神經會有相應的動作。正面的回應可觸發正面的感覺,有助於消除心理壓力,使能量倍增,就像把笑容互相感染一樣。支持者是力量的泉源!最好的減壓方法就在身邊,簡單而有效。

2. 施展「分心術」、保持眼神交流

假如有大篇講稿需要朗讀,根本無法背誦;假如只顧低頭看稿,又會忽略與觀眾的接觸。怎麼辦?這時候就要施展「分心術」,使自己既能看稿,又能抬頭與觀眾保持眼神交流。
假設一段內容有四句,頭兩句可以看稿朗讀,後兩句就即時記下,望著觀眾說出來;然後再望稿,重覆再做。當然這種技巧講求臨場應變、經驗和警覺性,但更重要是預先看熟講稿內容;即使未能一字一句背下,至少也有個概念。

3.  減壓有方、舒緩心情緊張

無論是企業高層、銷售員、公關及市務人員,以至不同職務的人士都有機會公開簡報或演說。演說對不少朋友而言如坐針氈,因為面對群眾說話壓力真不少!
演說時心情緊張是人知常情,因為當人面對重要或危急事情,身體會加速分泌腎上腺素,讓器官和細胞充滿力量,進入最佳狀態。要克服這個身心現象,有幾個步驟:
● 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

有滔滔不絕的本領,就是傑出的演說家嗎?說話只是一種媒介或工具,讓我們可以表達自己。演說時不僅要用口,還要配合表情、情緒、面部動作及身體語言。最重要是用心和腦,因為口才源於生活智慧,發自內心思維,是個性的表現。
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。
有些人演說時能發揮「感染力」,懾住觀眾心神。如何達此境界?首先要調整自己的心態:說話的意義不單在於表達,還在於溝通,進而與觀眾連繫起來,產生互動。若只顧自己的想法,忘記設身處地了解觀眾需要,無異於「自言自語」。要打開觀眾的心,先要打開自己的心,用百分百的真心去交流和分享。「說出真我」永遠最動人、最有力量。

5. 保持冷靜「執生」有法

公開演說最怕突發事故。人的自然反應是:當發生問題就會馬上回應,甚至作出更激的反應以掩蓋問題。
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!