Asia Private Equity Weekly News, Sept. 1, 2014

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 8:20 pm

MORI TRUST Co has bought a Tokyo wedding venue and office complex from U.S. investment fund Lone Star for around 130 billion yen , a source with knowledge of the matter said, in another sign the property market is recovering.

Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly?

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 6:19 pm
mentors (1) In light of the recent brouhaha over the actions of a particular European investor who had a habit of attaching himself to accelerators as a ‘mentor’, it seems an appropriate time to do a quick rundown on the kinds of things entrepreneurs need to look for in genuine potential mentor to them and their companies. Because, in case you have been hiding under a rock, there a lot of… Read More

Prix-fixe no more: Why à la carte is the future of software delivery

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 6:00 pm
Prix-fixe no more: Why à la carte is the future of software delivery

Facebook users have been vocal about Messenger, an app now required in addition to the social network’s main mobile application to send messages. What is the point of separating one brand into multiple apps?

While users initially expressed concern about downloading a secondary app just to chat with friends, this is part of a telling trend: services à la carte.

Software is moving from large, multipurpose applications to discrete services that offer high value every time they’re used.

Facebook isn’t the only company that’s jumped off the prix-fixe ship. Google did it with Drive, splitting its editing capabilities into the separate Docs, Sheets, and Slides. LinkedIn rolled out a standalone Job Search app.

New products like these flood the software space every day, and single-purpose services are the only way to guarantee customers are getting a fully customized experience, with simple access to the features they actually need.

Here are the top reasons why all software providers will ultimately adopt the à la carte, customer-first approach.

1. Deliver the minimum viable product. Companies often brag about the multitude of features they have added to their products, but this often distracts from customer satisfaction, long-term usage, and sales. When it comes to generating value, minimalism is key.

The best software simplifies and speeds the user’s experience. This requires a laser focus on the user’s real needs. The app should contain the core features – and only the core features – required for deployment, offering simplicity with a dedicated, irreplaceable purpose. Winning software strives for direct purity like this.

2. Take more frequent innovation leaps. Lean software makes you nimbler when it comes to serving extreme value to customers. Task-oriented applications require fewer lines of code, lower memory requirements, and less coordination among departments and features, which speeds up the execution process and allows you to enact your ideas more often.

With a purpose-built service, your audience self-selects into a niche segment, making it easier to maintain a deep understanding of your user base. As a result, you can quickly identify and effectively act on their needs and tastes, even as they change over time.

3. Gain multiple entry points into the market. With one feature-packed platform, it’s difficult for salespeople to identify the right type of customer contact to pitch.

From the customer perspective, heavy “all-in-one” platforms are intimidating, as appealing as they may seem at first. Business leaders aren’t familiar with the specific challenges outside their own departments, and are typically ill-equipped to decide whether a monolithic bundle would be useful for their organization at the offered cost.

À la carte software, on the other hand, is easier to understand, adopt and consume, which not only quickens the buying cycle but also amplifies the quality of sales leads.

Take, for example, a human resource platform. If it’s split into discrete services, a company’s HR director can start at low initial spend with one feature, like a staff directory. After experimenting with the standalone directory, HR may decide to add additional services, such as time tracking and employee onboarding.

As the HR department continues to increase its usage – perhaps adopting a benefits portal, performance monitoring and project management tools – other departments within the company might start to engage with the software, too. In this way, a platform can incrementally take hold within an organization, administering pure, feature-specific value at every step.

4. Leverage the full power of the cloud. A few years ago, it would have been impossible to offer software services à la carte. Without a way to deliver single-purpose services, feature-bloated applications were the only option.

In the era of cloud computing, we has a huge central repository to store all information. So single purpose-built service apps can live in the cloud, and users can summon each, instantly and as needed, with no delivery costs or limits to scale.

In time, single-purpose software will win out, offering laser-focused functionality enabled by a powerful, highly connected ecosystem. Solutions that claim to be all-in-one are clunky, complicated, and tough to adopt.

The prix-fixe software menu is dead — and businesses and customers alike will be thankful for it.

Guy Nirpaz is the CEO of Totango. Prior to starting Totango he worked in the space of real-time big data as EVP of Engineering at GigaSpaces, and Chief Architect at Mercury.

Totango ( provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies the unique ability to understand their customers in real-time. By monitoring customer engagement as it happens, Totango gives SaaS companies valuable inf... read more »

How mobile marketplaces are creating a million new U.S. jobs

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 4:45 pm

Online marketplaces such as Uber and Instacart are rapidly transforming the way people get what they want - whether it's a ride, a meal, or a pet sitter - when they want it.

Fairbanks spent $7k defending mayor’s $37.50 fine

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 4:45 pm

The city of Fairbanks has so far spent about $7,000 appealing a $37.50 elections fine leveled on the mayor.

Microsoft Continues Its Campaign Against A US Warrant Demanding Overseas Data

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 4:13 pm
microsoft-earnings A search warrant commanding Microsoft to turn over certain customer email data that is currently stored overseas was unfrozen late this week. The company declined to comply. In a statement, Microsoft said that it “will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal.” This protest act by Microsoft, arguing that domestic warrants should not be able to command access to data… Read More

How mobile marketplaces are creating a million new U.S. jobs   

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 4:00 pm


How mobile marketplaces are creating a million new U.S. jobs   
Image Credit: techi

Online marketplaces such as Uber and Instacart are rapidly transforming the way people get what they want – whether it’s a ride, a meal, or a pet sitter – when they want it. To make that happen, these companies are on a hiring spree, one that’s gone virtually unnoticed by the statisticians and economists who track the labor market.

An analysis by Menlo Ventures suggests that these emerging new businesses are already on track to create one million brand-new jobs in the U.S., many of them well paying and all of them filled in local markets by Americans. And that is likely a conservative estimate.

While these jobs require little training or higher education, they usually pay above minimum wage and offer many workers lifestyle flexibility and the opportunity to work close to home. This is especially important now, when studies indicate that other industries clamoring for employees are frustrated because they don’t have enough nearby applicants with the advanced training or experience to do these often-technical and specialized jobs.

What will drive this job growth? Digital marketplaces are being built on four megatrends of today’s Right-Now Economy, including:

  1. The increasing penetration of smartphones. Nearly one billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2013, according to Gartner. Couple this with the rise of big data and a dramatic decrease in the cost of software development and you have a technology environment well suited to the marketplace concept.
  2. The rise of Millennials (age 18 to 34) who are digital natives as the dominant consumer group. They are already spending an estimated $1.3 trillion annually and have surpassed baby boomers as the leading consumer demographic group, according to the Hartman Group.
  3. The growing availability of a freelance labor market willing to take jobs with non-traditional hours that fit into their individual lifestyles. By some estimates, there are already 42 million Americans who work freelance, and freelancers are projected to compose more than half the American workforce by 2020.

Latent consumer demand for the services can now be obtained more easily through digital marketplaces. For instance, there are 100 million dog-owning households in the U.S., according to the American Humane Society, yet only 230,000 dog-sitting jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If dog owners have access to a more efficient marketplace of potential dog walkers and dog sitters, there could be a huge opportunity to create new jobs.

Marketplaces are capitalizing on these trends by aggregating supply (whether it’s dog sitters, babysitters or cars for hire), increasing demand by creating easier and better buying experiences for consumers, and adding value to the transaction by providing add-ons that freelancers or small business can’t or don’t offer (such as on-call veterinarians and liability insurance). Technology makes it easier than ever for these companies to expand to new markets, creating strictly local jobs for workers but doing it without having to open costly and risky satellite offices.

To arrive at our job’s estimate, Menlo Ventures looked at the job-creation activities of numerous fast-growing marketplaces, including many in our own portfolio. For example, looking at Uber’s growth in Seattle, the company currently has 900 UberX drivers for a population of 635,000 people, compared to the 300 taxis in the city. By extrapolation, through the use of a current national figure of 170,000 traditional taxis (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), we estimated that Uber has the potential to expand to at least 360,000 UberX drivers nationally. It’s worth noting that in Seattle alone, there are more than 3,000 peer-to-peer drivers if Lyft and Sidecar are included in the calculation.

Furthermore, Uber pays more than traditional taxi jobs. The average U.S. taxi driver makes $30,000 a year at a rate of $14 an hour. By comparison, fulltime Uber drivers make $39,000 a year at a rate of $18 an hour.

Another example comes from Rover, a dog sitting service. There are 230,000 dog sitters in the U.S., and 430 dog-owning householders per dog sitter. A single dog sitter cannot service that many households. By opening up the supply of dog sitters through a frictionless online marketplace, in markets where Rover operates, the ratio comes down to 261 households per dog sitter. Rover has already created 25,000 new dog sitting jobs.

These figures represent only some of Menlo’s portfolio companies. When you include their competitors and other categories such as food service, creative and technical services, and home improvement services, the estimate can reach of one million – or more – American jobs created by online marketplaces. The same type of growth also is likely in international markets as these American companies expand globally.

Some argue that these are startup companies and that such growth is far from being a guarantee. But these companies are providing necessary consumer services, and once they scale, the network effect will take hold and they will become durable companies – much like Amazon – that will be able to survive and grow through changing economic environments.

Venky Ganesan is a Managing Director at Menlo Ventures and focuses on investments in the consumer and enterprise sectors.

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Menlo Ventures provides smart capital for seed through growth technology companies in the consumer and enterprise sectors. For decades, the firm’s market-driven research analysis has led to the identification of and successful exits ... read more »

AnandTech Founder Anand Shimpi Is Heading To Apple

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 3:34 pm
anand A day after announcing his retirement from writing, it’s come to light that veteran journalist Anand Shimpi will soon be joining Apple. The move, which was first reported by Re/code earlier today, was confirmed by the company. Read More

Typing Writer Turns Your iPad Into A Typewriter (And No, It Wasn’t Created By Tom Hanks)

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 3:05 pm
typing writer A couple of weeks ago, Hanx Writer, a typewriter app from movie star Tom Hanks, shot to the top of the Apple App Store. I guess there must be something in the air, because it’s not the only iPad-into-typewriter app to launch recently. There’s also Typing Writer, an app created by Stephen Elliott, founder of the literary website The Rumpus, along with Eli Horowitz, Chris Ying,… Read More

FCC’s new CTO is well-tooled for the upcoming net neutrality ruling

Sunday 31 August 2014 @ 2:45 pm
FCC’s new CTO is well-tooled for the upcoming net neutrality ruling

Above: Anti-"Fast Lane" protestors camped outside FCC.

Image Credit: Fight for the Future

The CTO position at the FCC demands a person who is technically proficient in networks and the Internet, and also one who isn’t afraid to get neck-deep in policy making.

At least that’s what the past has shown. The last CTO, Henning Schulzrinne, played a central role in the commission’s ruling that all mobile carries had to support 911 calls via text message.

Now the FCC has announced the name of a new CTO — Scott Jordan, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Irvine.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement, “Scott’s engineering and technical expertise, particularly with respect to the Internet, will provide great assistance to the Commission as we consider decisions that will affect America’s communications platforms.”

As for Jordan’s skill set, the commission has been hyping his network and Internet chops. It stressed the importance of Jordan’s work on “communications platforms, pricing, and differentiated services on the Internet,” and “voice, data, and video on the Internet and on wireless networks.”

By talking about the new CTO’s experience in communications platforms and pricing, the commission is calling attention to Jordan’s fitness for making policy around network neutrality, likely the biggest issue Jordan will be involved in at the commission during his tenure.

And Jordan, it turns out, has already weighed in with the commission on the issue.

The last time the the FCC considered a rulemaking on the subject, Jordan filed a comment. And the statement isn’t exactly complimentary of the commission’s work on the issue so far.

“Neither the extreme pro nor con net neutrality positions are consistent with the philosophy of Internet architecture” Jordan and a co-author write in the statement. “The net neutrality issue is the result of a fragmented communications policy unable to deal with technology convergence.”

The FCC’s proposed Open Internet plan was met with loud criticism from the tech community because it seemed to open the door to carriers like AT&T and Comcast selling Internet “fast lanes” to the highest bidder. This could create a system where small, innovative Internet companies could be prevented from competing on a level playing field with it’s more established and well-monied rivals.

Jordan will take over as CTO in a few weeks, just in time for the real wrangling over the Open Internet proposal to begin.

The period for public comment on the proposed rulemaking ends September 15.

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