Archive for March, 2011

Afreeca TV is not your average TV

March 23, 2011

With the constant improvements in technology, some say it is easier to make ends meet. Diverting from the common manufacturing and selling of products, many Internet users are taking advantage of online platforms to make money. The appearance of broadcast jockeys (hereafter BJs) was possible due to high demand in videos on the Internet. The prominent market maker in the video streaming industry is Google’s YouTube and Hulu even if there are many controversies around those services. They provide users with a plethora of videos, either user created or professionally produced, that can be watched according to their interest. Nevertheless, considering YouTube’s platform is an alpha, the beta would be Afreeca TV.

Afreeca TV is a live interactive broadcast platform developed in 2006 by Nowcom, a company based in Korea, engaged in the provision of network security solutions and Internet services. The Internet broadcasting service, Afreeca TV, is a free service for online TV programs and provider of a live online personal broadcasting platform for anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Afreeca TV is available for both PCs and mobile phones, especially smart phones such as iPhone and Android phones.

An interesting fact about the company is that they have pioneered a unique micro-payment based monetization model that is normally used in the online gaming industry. Afreeca TV provides its users with items such as star balloons, stickers, and other rare items available to distinguish BJs from other users or make them unique, thereby having more thumbs up from their fellow viewers. Usually, users buy such items to utilize them on famous BJs’ pages to gain personal attention from BJs. BJs with regular appearance on the Afreeca TV eventually get famous and even work full-time, as it gives them enough cash-flow to support their hard-work. Moreover, a higher income for BJs is guaranteed by having more users’ visit, items sold, and recommendation clicks from viewers. Rumors say, popular BJs have made more than $300,000 for the past 3 years. They sometimes have professional managers, make-up artists, and IT technician like a mini professional media production shop. Nevertheless, BJs are not necessarily doing it for the money but fun (or maybe fame.) For instance, a bus driver in Seoul broadcasts his radio show through his iPhone, capturing his daily routine while playing radio music and entertaining commentaries for those who watch him on the show. He is not necessarily undertaking such an activity to solicit money from viewers, but instead he is trying to gain recognition and have fun. In order to gain more recognition and viewer-ships, some BJs have had cases showing explicit material such as soft porn, stripping or copy-righted material that should not be shared at all. These occurrences can negatively affect the proper usage of online technology and platforms itself, as it can arouse predicaments; hence, the service team of Afreeca TV has been working around the clock to minimize such materials and lessen the risk of getting framed for misuse by BJs and viewers.

Afreeca TV debuted as a great platform for airing the protest rallies on US beef products that took place in mid-June 2008. In a newfound democracy, “Freedom of Speech” was practiced in such a platform as it continually showed the live footage of protesters having violence and severe conflicts with law enforcement. Similarly, a SNS like Twitter provides their users with a platform that enables them to immediately tweet useful information that others cannot receive directly through other traditional forms of media. The only difference between Twitter and Afreeca TV is in the form of how the information is conveyed: words vs. videos. Not only does it broadcast political matters, but it is another universe of lonely beings who want to vent, share their idle time and do almost anything in a live online setting.

A well-known competitor of Afreeca TV in the US is Ustream.TV, founded by West Point graduates, which raised about $88 million for their investment from various venture capitals including Doll Capital Management, Band of Angels, and Softbank. Unlike the Korean counterpart, Ustream.TV and other US live broadcasting services like Justin.TV, Flixwagon, and myshowroom.TV, heavily rely on advertisement or the pay-per-view model.

Afreeca TV’s unique monetization model is an interesting system that should give inspiration to entrepreneurs in the interactive media industry. Imagine a similar platform and monetization model applied to a larger audience base outside of Korea. Afreeca maybe able to give an answer for revenue beyond conventional ad-base revenue only model. Hence, the company providing the live broadcasting platform could rake in profits, while Internet users who are interested in that particular topic could watch the content directly and immediately without being edited or filtered in ways done by local or cable TV channels. It’s an interesting value proposition.

(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist at KingsBay Capital.)

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The breathing company: significance of business life cycle

March 17, 2011

How well do you know your business? Organizing a venture and eventually longing for it to be listed or included in the Fortune 500 list are common long term tasks. You only think of prosperity, projection of cost and profit which indicates a green-light for you to execute the business. Not to mention you have done market studies of other factors that should be considered when it comes to setting up a startup. Why do you think ventures that are at its primitive stage are called “startups?” Breaking this word into two and mixing them would give “upstart,” which implies a head start at an activity if used as a noun, and as a verb it means “to spring up into existence.” For it took time to be extant, businesses do not necessarily prosper as initially planned. Likewise, even well-established companies may file for Chapter 7 or 11 at any point in time depending on what placates the predicament. An article from the Harvard Business School on the subject states that “Average life expectancy of Fortune 500 companies is 40-50 years” and that “1/3 of Fortune 500 companies in 1970 had vanished by 1983.” In other words, startups and a company of considerable size have the same outcome if mismanaged by the entrepreneurs.

When organizing their ventures at an early stage, entrepreneurs usually tend to believe highly in themselves to a point where it brings acrid results. Life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 is to be “less than 15 years and continuing to decline.” If companies cannot adapt to the changing environment, they will inevitably go bankrupt. To prevent such calamity, entrepreneurs need sound management to navigate through the heavy turbulence. Entrepreneurs do employ peculiar strategies when it comes to the entrance and exit of a venture. However, those distinctive ways may not suffice to be everlasting. Furthermore, there are a few companies that have not been moved by the storm and still standing strong. For instance, The Sumitomo Group has its origins “in a copper casting shop founded by Riemon Soga in the year 1590.” This Japanese conglomerate exemplifies that the natural average lifespan of a corporation should be for centuries, to say the least.

Nevertheless, why do so many companies die out prematurely? In terms of business in general, there is much speculations about that matter and this area is still in the gray. Corporations fail because they do not adapt themselves properly or link themselves ‘emotionally’ to the community they conduct business in. Not focusing on the importance of community or catering to specific people. Mismanagement is not the sole problem that exasperates the problem. Acknowledging business’ life cycle provides the significance of understanding the basics. Entrepreneurs only think about the products and services they can offer that should have comparative advantage over their competitors, but they neglect the life cycle notion, the very fundamentals of management.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the fall of companies, whether it is a company at its baby steps or one that has a long history. You should recognize the importance of your business’ life cycle, as other factors that proves detrimental or the opposite will eventually follow after the fundamentals have been covered.
(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist at KingsBay Capital.)

Women have the final say now: Mrs. Lee Ki Nam, Female entrepreneur in Korea

March 14, 2011

The word entrepreneur commonly associates a goal-driven male leader. However, the perception of such a notion is rapidly changing as more successful women enter the arena and have final say in the boardroom.

Studies between female and male entrepreneurs suggest that women with powerful, decisive, multitask-oriented personalities are a good fit for the competitive world of business. With their modern leadership style, they head corporations and dominate certain well-known companies alongside male underdogs.

Likewise, Korea has plenty of examples on such female entrepreneurs, but this particular article is focused on one particular female entrepreneur who should be acknowledged for her contribution to the country.

Mrs. Lee Ki Nam, a female entrepreneur and chair-woman of the Hunminjeongeum Society, is gaining global publicity through her unique export: the Korean alphabet. The Hunminjeongeum Society, also known as the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute, was founded in 2007 and is an organization that exports the “Korean” language to countries where phonetic language is nonexistent. One case of successful exports was to Indonesia’s Cia-Cia tribe, which gained global recognition and publicity on the cover of the NYT and WSJ. In interviews when asked the reasoning behind her actions, she stated that her main objective was to express the will of her ancestor King Sejong, who created Hangeul. Interestingly enough, she is a direct descendant of King Sejong. Funding her business through the fortune she raked in from her involvement in real estate and construction businesses when she was younger, Mrs. Lee decided to expose the importance of language to a particular society, in which written systems were inadequate to record their languages.

Some accounts of Mrs. Lee’s work highlights her noteworthy background in terms of entrepreneurship. Even in her late 70s, she is still very active in the entrepreneur world, be it for profit or non-profit. Her career began as a junior high school teacher and later devoted herself to family business in the real estate industry, allowing her fortune to build and fund her businesses. One of her earlier ventures was to initiate the Korean font for Macintosh PC in the 1980s, which many are unaware of. Another interesting fact is that she also instigated the Korean-Israel Chamber of Commerce in the early 90s before Korea-Israel ties were officially recovered from their foreign diplomatic ties. Mrs. Lee is also heavily active in philanthropic work involving arts and culture through the Wonam Culture And Arts Foundation. Currently, she is working on a prospective business to satiate the growing demand in the G2 community; factors such as fierce competition, age and gender will not stop her from doing what she loves.

With extraordinary experiences in entrepreneurship, Mrs. Lee is definitely an excellent role model for upcoming entrepreneurs. This includes both male and female, as both are striving for the same goal in terms of moving up the ranks. Furthermore, Mrs. Lee’s positive energy, focus, determination and thinking outside the box, has made her dreams into reality. Her noble ambition shall continue to be observed and appreciated.

In summary, prospective entrepreneurs should not only be profit driven but also should organize their ventures that could lead to creating shared value, wherein those in need of support should be given a lending hand.

(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist at KingsBay Capital.)

Open your eyes to Work-Life Balance

March 9, 2011

Try to question yourself on the above notion, is your entrepreneurial life well balanced? To a certain extent, you would say it’s rather well-balanced, however, is it truly balanced is the question you should ask afterwards. The idea is if you firmly believe you won’t regret to what you’ve answered, then you can simply ignore this piece; however, for those who have a little bit of guilt should continue to scroll down.

Maintaining a “proper” work-life balance is on the minds of many, especially entrepreneurs. It may take days, weeks, months or even years depending how fast you understand the relationship between them. It could be acknowledged through countless trial-and-error’s, thereby experiencing acrid accounts that inadvertently enable them to take into consideration for future endeavors. For Brad Feld, an MIT alumni who is a managing director at Foundry Group, vents through his blog that it took him almost 15 years, “a failed first marriage,” and his “current wife almost calling it quits” for him to realize that he had to “figure out what work-life balance meant.”

So, what is a “work-life balance” anyway? To simply put, it is a concept that blends the management of business and personal life to attain optimal working hours that can eliminate stress and improve overall life. In other words, you, as an entrepreneur, should manage your time efficiently, plan your activities effectively, prioritize your goals wisely, and know best what fully satisfies you, thereby enjoying work as well as having enough leisure time to cool off the heat. It is probably easier said than be done to many of you.

Starting a new venture is no easy task. You are passionate (and maybe obsessive, too), and have a blueprint of where the startup is heading in the coming years. Over-commitment to the startup at an early developing phase could lead to an exhausting daily life, which could alter physical well-ness or even personality in the long run. Perhaps, accomplishment and recognition from others outweigh or at least put these life factors behind. How long will this last anyways? Imagine yourself being totally burned out to a point where you find yourself sleeping more than half the day lying in bed on the weekends, too tired to get out of home. Is this what you’ve longed for all these years? Enjoying the fact that you’re doing what you love but at the same time feeling physically uncomfortable that you begin to struggle with yourself by attempting not to make it an obstacle to your long journey in venturing out a new business.

We all have a small knack to set up businesses at some point in life. Thanks to technology and its vast use, young and ambitious entrepreneurs are currently diverting from the conventional fresh out of college and landing jobs to build a career through work experience for future endeavors. Hyun-Sung Daniel Shin, Founder and CEO of Ticketmonster in Korea, a fast growing social commerce powerhouse is a prime figure who sets an example to young entrepreneurs in the search for success. In an interview with the JoongAng Daily, he mentioned “I want to enjoy what I do.” After graduating from the Wharton, he quit his job at McKinsey believing that one day his company would become “McKinsey’s client,” which his colleagues even strongly encouraged doing that. Nonetheless, even with all the passion and positive energy exuded to operate their venture, entrepreneurs will eventually find themselves worn out. The question is persistency. Venturing will pause when the physique does not cope with the mind. Hence, finding one’s distinctive way of balancing work and life will help the venturing process seem less exhausting.

(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist of KingsBay Capital.)

Augmented Reality: Know it now before it knows you!

March 2, 2011

Imagine you are at a bus stop and behind a large advertisement of a beautiful woman rocking a bikini catches your eye. You’ve seen her on television ads and even on your desktop pop-up ads, but you can’t seem to recall her name. You forgot about the application you have on your smart-phone that is capable of finding her name just by a few taps on your phone.

You’re probably familiar with virtual reality or artificial reality but not augmented reality (hereafter AR). So what is AR? And why should you even care about it? AR is "the use of head-mounted displays ("HMDs") to overlay computer generated images onto the physical environment." In layman terms, it’s technology that enables you to see what your naked eye normally cannot. The basic idea of AR is to "superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real world environment real time." You probably have seen them on TV, especially in a soccer game. After the player fails to score, the sports commentators will mention what the player should have done supporting their assertions with computer generated graphics on the actual soccer field of where the game is taking place. That’s just a short reminder. So what’s so special about it that you need to care? It’s going to be the next bing thing in the upcoming future. Having one out of ten people using a smart-phone in Korea alone with rapid growth rate, the significance of AR soars. AR technology is usually embedded on a device that has a camera function to scan. Before it becomes widely applied in all societies, you should be able to understand its purpose and make use of it.

Although there are many aspects of AR, this piece is focused on the basic function of AR – facial recognition, which few companies have already developed the technology. Polar Rose, a company from Sweden, built a facial recognition software that identifies people in any public pictures on the net. The service was later shut down as they were acquired by Apple for USD $29 million in September 2010. Another competitor to Polar Rose, Viewdle, based in California, has been focusing on a visual recognition platform for smart-phones with heavy integration of social networking sites. Viewdle, the "largest independent company in computer vision," raised $10 million from retailer Best buy, chip maker Qualcomm, and the Blackberry Partners Fund. The remaining $2.5 million and $1.25 million came from venture capitals Anthem Venture Partners and Western Technology Investment, respectively. As for a local counterpart, Olaworks offers the same technology as Polar Rose and Viewdle, though yet to be known in a global scale. They received $4 million equity funding from Skylake Incuvest, Intel Capital, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati ("WSGR"), a prestigious Silicon Valley-headquartered law firm. What these ventures all have in common is that they selected to develop a promising platform that possesses potential for the future that links between real-life and online worlds..

Olaworks has an edge by being based in a country where it happens to be an ideal test bed for new mobile application. Relationships with Samsung, LG and HTC enable Olaworks to have more upfront access to smart-phone users. Olaworks has strong research and development team, most of them out of from KAIST, an institution full of the top brains of Korea equivalent with MIT. Olaworks also has high penetration rate in Korea with the fact that there are 4 million smart-phone users in Korea and 1.8 million Olawork apps are already downloaded for both Android and iPhone OS. One of the early investors of Olaworks, Skylake Incuvest, was founded by a former Minister of Information & Communications and ex-Samsung Electronic’s president, Mr. Chin Daejae. Such investors allows Olaworks to expedite a firm base to develop and compete in the global computer vision industry. Olaworks will be transcending into an independent platform that may bring about a change in the AR era competing with their other peers. Olaworks is now in preparation to expand to the global market with a more active stance looking forward to seeing their strong presence in the market in the coming years.

(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist of KingsBay Capital.)