I spent the morning with Xiaoxin Chen, CFO of Oak Pacific Interactive, one of the largest interactive networks in China. Mindblowing discussion about the Internet in China, the explosion of wireless, file sharing, consumer willingness to buy online, Google, Baidu, and his hot company — one of the top ten in terms of traffic with 30 million visits per day and about 15 million registered visitors. — which translates into “cat rushing forward” — is primarily a site aimed at the younger market. This is a MySpace type of model for China. All Ajaxy and Web 2.0-ish but more.

You register and basically get your own place, your social network, your file sharing network, etc. This is where the two viral sensations of China — the guys in Yao Ming shirts lip synching (who have since been signed to corporate sponsorships) — got their start before they viralled over to Youtube.

Mop is a broadband network, and their TV site — — is total video, from movie trailers to user uploaded content. The model is advertising based — I counted a dozen impressions on the home page, the design is crazed — and there is a premium model where users can buy more space, and services.
Chen, a Stanford MBA, is riding a tiger. An hour with him and you want to move to China and set up shop. This is Wild West stuff, volumes of users and ad dollars that no SOMA or Silicon Alley could have dreamed of in the late 90s. His partner, the founder, Joseph Chen, a Stanford classmate, sold his first company to Sohu, hung around for a while, left, went optical before that bubble burst, then got back into interactive media with ChinaInteractiveCorp — which is now Oak Pacific Interactive, a network which includes pcast,, uume, and DoNews.

I need a month here. Too much to absorb in a week.

Inside looking out

Yesterday was an eye-opener in terms of getting a different vantage point on the same goal.

I spent the day working with my Chinese colleagues — not a new thing, I’ve collaborated with them via email, and in person in North Carolina since the middle of January. But being here, in their offices, watching how they work, and hearing first-hand their perspectives on what it means to be a Chinese company seeking to become a global company is an entirely different thing than making assumptions from North Carolina trying to help them realize that goal.

The entire vibe is one of intense and keen interest in figuring out the best way to build a true global company — not an integration of a Chinese and an American one. Having spent last week in Singapore with colleagues from all of the Asia Pacific region, instant messaging with the United Kingdom, organizing operations in Buenos Aries — this is head spinning to say the least.

While IT is the backbone, what’s more apparent to me is the necessity for the old cliche from the early days of online community, lessons learned on the docks of Sausalito by the first denizens of the W.E.L.L., by the Geeks on the Beach at Reel-Time — that face to face time is the most precious commodity of all. Flat worlds, fiber pipes, IM, SMS, global wireless … all expedite the collaboration, but nothing can ever replace the intense bandwidth of sharing a lunch with a colleague 13 time zones away from one’s home. I blogged early on global governance and management, now I’m living it, and it is apparent we’re on the threshold of something massive coming, the early stages of a new world that will demand new thinking.

The friction is — essentially –airplanes and jet lag. Language is a pain, but even so, seat me next to someone over a bowl of fishhead soup and I’ll gain a better understanding than I would from a 7 am conference calls and a hundred emails.

China Internet thoughts

Things are too chaotic on the morning of day two to compose a reasoned essay on what the situation is regarding computing, Internet, mobile telephony, and branding opportunities in China. and I need to get outside and explore more on one of my precious days off in the country before a week of meetings.
So here’s a random list:

  • Right off the bat I saw a Yahoo ad on a bus. I love bus ads. CNET used them to great effect in Manhattan in the mid-90s. Yahoo was the only U.S. internet brand to make an impression yesterday and this one was sighted outside of the northern entrance to the Forbidden City.
  • Internet access in the two hotels I’ve visited is hardwired and fairly fast. I moved a ton of images up to Flickr without any problem. I’ve been googling with no hiccups and have seen no examples of censorship. There may be different “zones” for hotel access, but I can’t say I have seen any blocked messages or sites.Wikipedia is not loading, but running a politically sensitive search on Google permitted click throughs to sites critical of the government. I have not looked for any porn or other objectionable content. In no way have I felt that any online activities are being delayed, blocked or impeded in the four hours I’ve spent online.
  • There aren’t a lot of American brands in evidence. Microsoft has a large office building with their logo on it. But it seems to be European brands such as Lufthansa, Nestle, Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes in the highest abundance. This history plaque in the Forbidden City was sponsored by American Express. And on every plaque carrying this, there appeared to be smears of mud or clay where someone tried to obscure the tagline.
  • I have seen no Internet cafes yet.
  • Wireless phones tend to be either local brands, Nokia, or Motorolas. People use them incessantly. My step-sister, who is a film executive, has one glued to her head at all times. No one appears to be using them for email (I have not seen a Blackberry in use) and I don’t see many people texting SMS nor any advertising calls to action that use SMS codes.
  • I saw the word “Mashup” on a poster at this Beijing art gallery. The art here is amazing and the gallery district in a former factory in the 7-9-8 district is right out of San Francisco’s SOMA.
  • Blogging is big. I am going to meet some bloggers later this week, but I understand from my step-sister that a lot of business people blog here in Beijing. My China blogroll only now holds:
  • Virtual China: “Virtual China is an exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China. The topic is also the primary research area for the Institute for the Future’s Asia Focus Program in 2006. IFTF is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 35 years of forecasting experience based in Palo Alto, CA.”
  • ChinaTechStory: which isn’t working at the time of this post.
  • a good frequent news feed.
  • There is a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. Of course. The other big American brand is, of course, McDonald’s. While eating gyoza in an awesome little cafe, the family at the table next to us was tucking into a great meal while Junior ate a Big Mac and fried from the Golden Arches. The world isn’t flat, but it sure will be fat.
  • Chinese “OOH” — Marketing lingo for Out Of Home — billboards to you and me, is big. Like really big. The stuff is huge. It screams. We whisper. I’ll get some pictures of how we advertise Lenovo here. I got tons of Lenovo impressions yesterday. Big billboards at a convention/tech center and those mechanical rolling ads. All such brands are in English and Chinese.
  • The entire city is under construction. The locals blame a lot of the dust and air quality problems on construction. Apparently a construction moratorium is going into effect along with a coal ban inside of the third ring road to try to clean things up in time for the Olympics. Tons of Olympic branding everywhere and a big countdown clock of the days remaining before they open in ’08 at Tianamen Square.
  • That’s all for now. Time to lace on the hiking shoes and start exploring after a congee breakfast.
  • Jim Forbes on metrics and customer tracking

    My Weblog:

    Jim pens one of the best reasoned discussions of customer tracking I had ever read, and wades in between me and Jeff Young at ZDNet — The Cookie Monster.

    Accountability is a drag, but as the man sang, “You gotta serve somebody.” Or as the Cliche Goon’s say, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

    I’ll say it again and again — metrics is not an abrogation of a customer’s rights to privacy. If you trust the brand and the brand doesn’t sell your name down the river, well, what’s the beef?

    And I’ll go back to the Scott McNealy quote: “We have no privacy. Get over it.”

    The late Tom Mandel — he of the W.E.L.L., SRI and the person who put Time Magazine online — once had a fascinating lunch discussion in Palo Alto about a book idea for the “Compleat Paranoid’s Guide to Living Off the Grid.” Basically, we wondered if a person could exist in contemporary America with no social security number, no ID, no nothing. These conversations happening when the privacy freaks were losing their marbles over Caller ID on their phones.

    Psychotic Snivelling


    Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

    What a fun flight into Beijing. The announcement comes over the loudspeaker that we are having an emergency and to grab an oxygen mask. Great fun. I realized my last thoughts would be a white paper on lead generation techniques and not the 23rd Psalm.

    Then, as we were getting ready to land, they handed out health disclosure forms. I was drawn to “Snivel” and “Psychosis,” conditions I have been known to experience, but fortunately was not at the time.

    Then the lovely cabin stewards went through the cabin spraying some sort of “World Health Organization Approved” germicide which made me feel like I’d been bug-bombed by a can of Raid.

    First view of China


    Originally uploaded by dchurbuck.

    Made Beijing at 11 pm, being met by a very nice colleague who took off her Friday evening to greet me at the custom’s gate. After a quick ride through the hazy darkness (there have been Gobi sandstorms) I made it to the hotel, logged on, send some mails back to RTP, ate a sleeping pill and just awoke to this, my first look at China.

    Sort of takes the romance out of the balloon.

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