This is my second time to echelon, a Asian tech startup event. But this time round, I brought my wife and Livia along. It was also Livia’s first time on the plane. I must say the trip with Livia to Singapore wasn’t as bad as I would imagine. She did cry once and pooped twice but it was something we could manage.
We stayed in Goodwood Park Hotel – a 5 star hotel. We got it at a discounted rate. In the old days, I would stay in some dingy, inconvenient or far away hotel to save cost. But with Livia around, we made sure we stay at a good hotel. Goodwood Park was excellent. Room was big and service was good. It was about RM600 night. We opted out from breakfast which cost SGD30. I had breakfast at Far East Plaza, which is just next door, for SGD4.
The event was held at Max Atria, Expo Drive. It quite far away for Singaporean standard. It’s an hour by train if I come from Orchard. Taxi ride was about 20 minutes.
This year’s echelon is much more interesting. They spoke about mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the startup world and advertising in tech businesses. The key thing I picked up from the M&A talk is that one should get to know people early. Many big boys get to know the startups early and see them grow. When the startup is seen to have potential, the big boys can quickly and easily engage the startup for acquisition purposes.
The speaker for the advertising in tech business aptly set out tech business models:- ecommerce, search (eg Google), social media (Facebook, Twitter), eservices (eg Spotify), content publisher (eg CNN), content aggregator and gaming. All these models can be monetised with advertisements.
Although I am not in the tech business, I find it very useful to attend such event. I have many tech related clients and it is very useful for me to understand their business especially their tech jargon and business models. I also get to educate clients on the latest updates and even educating clients who want to venture into the tech industry.
This year I do not have the company of Melissa (who is no longer in Perkpool) but Chong Yee, my patent attorney friend from Singapore. Together we went around the booths to hear startups pitch their business. This year they have startups from Kazakhstan. I find these startups most interesting:-
Phonebooth - app that allows you to make free phone call to local businesses. Phonebooth will gather business phone numbers and list them on their App. Business owners may claim the number and place information and advertisements there. For example, a restaurant may place their menu.
Honey Alarm – funny pitch from the founder. You can customise the alarm clock App to wake you up using recordings of their “sweet young thing” (SYT). The new version will allow users to purchase the newly listed SYTs. There may also be a new version to put your own recording such as your children or girlfriend.
Worldjumper - a self learning translator. They will install a database which will learn your company’s patterns and behavior in translation.
Ipselex - a software that simplifies patent searches for startups and businesses. Key in a product description and it will plow through patent specifications to see whether there are any similar products. Invented by a patent attorney, the software has semantic functions ie to have variation of term for each search term.
Piroq - this is the first company I see commercialises Raspberry Pi. It is installed in a vehicle to track, for example, road conditions, location of vehicles.
Typeform - A website which allows you to beautify your surveys, registration forms and other forms. Basicallly, a beautified version of SurveyMonkey.
The French Celler – Users can get specially selected French wine by one of France’s best sommelier. Buy wine online
At the end of the first day, all 10 most promising startups from a few countries from the Asia region pitched to win the most promising startup. I find these startups most interesting:-
Candy - complete “missions” (micro-tasks) like downloading App to get free mobile calls or airtime.
Publishizer - a pre-order ebook website. Author can post their ebook to get backers
Hoverr – in-image advertisements – images are highly engaging to visitors. Most visitors ignore anything that looks like an advertiser – advertisement on top of images.
Ambiclimate - device and App to regulate air condition temperature. Currently supports 7 brands of aircon.
Viscovery – B2B visual based search – can be used to snap product and search it using Viscovery to purchase product – enable user to search their product quickly
TaamKru - app for children to learn. Parents can compare results with other children based on, age, geography etc. In app purchase for more content. Winner of the echelon most promising startup.
iChef - Taipei – highly customisable POS App for restaurants – you can vary and customise each items on the menu eg more noodles, less spicy or more soup.
There was a session on the Malaysian startup scene moderated by Gabey Goh of Digital News Asia. Here Cheryl’s screensaver took over the screen. When the floor was open for questions, someone asked about corruption in Malaysia.
I managed to catch up with some of two of my university mates namely Chuo Ming and Mitciao. The former has just joined another law firm whereas the latter is expecting a baby soon!
After skipping the INTA conference at Dallas last year, I made a special appearance at International Trade Mark Association Conference (INTA) held in Hong Kong in May. It’s the first time INTA was held in Asia. Over 8500 people attended the event. This does not include those who did not register for the event including myself.
Those who did not register are not allowed into the conference area. Nevertheless, many fixed their meetings at hotel lobbies such as Renaissance and Grand Hyatt or the cafes in or around the conference area.
I did not fix many meetings. I only met people who I’ve worked with or know quite well. But I was fortunate to meet some friends who made impromptu outings to various receptions around Hong Kong.
I touched down Hong Kong on Thursday and headed straight to my hotel at Wanchai. It’s called the Wharney Guang Dong Hotel. It’s a hotel along the red light district of Wan Chai. There were plenty of Filipino girls and mama-sans by a row of pubs soliciting business.
I had only 4 meetings on my first day of conference. It was actually 5 meetings but I missed the first one cause I forgot to key it into my calender!
My first meeting was at Man Ho Chinese restaurant at JW Marriot. It was a luncheon meeting jointly organised by a Thai and Hong Kong law firm. I guess I got invited because they help me out with some of my trade mark applications. I sat between a Singaporean lady and a Chinese Canadian lady. The latter told me that she forgot to bring her clothes from Canada because she was rushing to the airport. She had to do her shopping upon touchdown!
I had dinner at a place called T Chu at Zen Too. Interesting food. I was invited by a Singapore patent attorney, Chong Yee and his wife. We had dinner with another friend of his and his wife. The former is a partner of Bird & BIrd, an international firm. His wife is a Malaysian. Small world!
Since Umeng is coming to visit me from Macau on Sunday, I set aside a day to meet him and roam around Hong Kong.
I met a friend of his whose mother owns a “Che Chai Mien (Little Cart noodles) restaurant. We took a train to Wong Tai Sin to visit this Little Cart Noodles shop.
It’s located in a residential area surrounded by old apartments. The shop is a few steps away from Sheung Fung Street Market
We had a peek of how the locals live.
The shop, like many other Hong Kong eateries, is small. One has the go through the tight lanes to get a table.
Umeng can’t wait for his food
To get food, one has to line up to choose his or her dishes. We didn’t need to line up. Our friend chose the dishes for us.
Little Cart Noodles is a mixture of all forms of animal “spare parts”. We had chicken feet, cow stomach, coagulated blood. It also has pomelo skin and radish.
It comes with a bowl of noodles.
The taste is interesting. Something I’ve never tried before. Pomelo skin tasted strange. Its texture look like cooked radish but it is soft and has a very distinct taste.
While having our meal, we overheard some people talking about taufufah (taufu) noodles. Although we were pretty full, we dropped by the takeaway eatery that sells this taufufah noodles. I was told that this new eatery is owned by some guys who won a reality TV contest. Those guys pitched the idea of this eatery and won some cash to fund their business.
The sweet gravy, however, overpowered the taste of taufafah. I don’t taste much of it. Noodles are a little bit tough for me.
Umeng and I dropped by Mong Kok to kill time.
We met my friend Erin at Central Station. Since it was Sunday, the place was packed with Filipino ladies and some Bangladeshi men. The ladies were hanging out by the curb and occupied every empty space. Even the stairs were occupied by them.
At one corner, there was a small stage. A small group of Filipino ladies was dancing and singing. Other ladies were cheering and screaming for them.
Erin brought us to Da Verm Climbing Club at Sai Ying Pun. We had to take the tram to get to this place. It rained halfway and all we had was Erin’s umbrella. I actually brought an umbrella all the way from Kuala Lumpur and of all days, I forgot to bring it when it rained heavily!
We had to brave through the rain to get to Da Verm. Da Verm is a small indoor climbing gym. It consists of mainly bouldering walls. The surface of the wall is painted and smooth. Most of the walls are reclined walls thus making it difficult for new climbers. Umeng had to struggle quite a bit. Erin on the other hand was steady because she had been climbing since I started (about 10 years ago!).
There’s a small training room in the gym. It has a peg wall. I could only get to one peg! My locking power is still quite weak! It also has a sandbag. It was great punching it again.
Erin, Umeng and I ended the night with a workout set by Erin. It was so tough that we almost gave up halfway!
We had dinner thereafter at Tsim Chai Kee. They are known for their wan tan mee. My three toppings noodles – fish balls, wanton and sliced beef – was tasty.
Umeng stayed over my hotel as he has a meeting in Hong Kong the next morning. Here he said, “I’ll be there in a while, Honey”.
I did not fix many meeting on Tuesday. In fact I had large gap after my 11am meeting. I thought of heading to the hotel for rest but I met Caroline, a Thai lawyer. We met many years ago in one of the many receptions. We had lunch and ended up meeting other lawyers from other countries for drinks and two other receptions. We even had the time to have Godiva ice cream at Queen’s Road East. I find it more enjoyable meeting people on randomly than having fixed meetings. The latter sometimes is too short.
I wanted to meet a Japanese friend, Takeshi, but his schedule was completely full. One thing about Japanese lawyers is that they always have packed schedules. They are extremely systemised. I met one Japanese firm that has a script on what to discuss during meetings.
I managed to squeeze in a meeting with Takeshi at a Korean law firm reception. We were hosted by a Korean lawyer who spoke impeccable nihon-go. She told us that she had studied Japanese in Korea. I was so impressed.
We had one reception at Tott and Roof at Exclesior Hotel overlooking the Victorian Harbour. It was organised by Awapatent, a Swedish intellectual property firm with offices in 13 regional offices. It was founded in 1897 and in 2013, they have EUR 63,2 million in turnover. I was there for a short while before rushing to another meeting.
I had to rush to Admirality train station to meet up with another friend in Conrad Hotel. He brought me up to a lounge on top of the hotel. Great view of Hong Kong as well.
Once again, Nitin, my friend from India, and I met up for dinner and drinks. We dubbed it the India and Malaysia reception. I probably had 3 pints of Guinness. We managed to gather a number of people and even Erin and her friend, Chris, came to join us. We had friends from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. We’ll probably make this a yearly event! We lasted until 1:30-am before heading home.
This is a reception held by Kangxin, a Chinese firm held at The Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse. I visited some friends from Kangxin when I was in Beijing. I was put on a table with some lawyers from Korea and Israel. Interestingly, my Israeli friend was a tennis champion of Israel during his younger days.
Halfway through the dinner, the firm held a contest where each table had to guess the winning horses. They then showed a pre-recorded horse race and the winner is based on the result of the pre-recorded race. We didn’t win of course.
I left Hong Kong a day earlier. Getting to the airport was a breeze. I only need take a train to Central and then another train to the airport. I’m glad I made a trip to Hong Kong.
The last time when I was in Miri, it was on the invitation of Mr Ma, the boss of Balcony club. He wanted some Melbourne Shufflers in the club and I was roped in with some friends. Mr. Ma gave each of us a t-shirt but I didn’t wear it. I think he wasn’t pleased with that. That was in 2005.
Nevertheless, he treated us dim sum the next morning. That was the last time I saw Mr Ma. Last year, he was assassinated by masked men. He was shot while in his car. No one had been arrested for his murder till now.
On 24 April 2014, I flew to Miri on the invitation of the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak to speak about personal data protection.
I touched down around 1130pm and fellow lawyer, Jimmy Liaw picked me up from the airport. I thought I’ll be ending my night upon checking into the hotel. However, Jimmy suggested that we go for drinks and ended up drinking until 2am at Al Fresco. Balcony is still around but it’s now owned by different people.
Mr Ma’s brother, Johnson Ma runs Al Fresco now. We had couple of drinks with him and even played drinking games with him. At the end of the night Jimmy said, “Not bad, you can drink” notwithstanding my face was lobster red.
Jimmy then brought me to the market for char kuey teow. I remember this place had “duck flavoured” char kuey teow. However, it didn’t taste anything like duck this time round though. Nevertheless, it was good.
I stayed in Merits Hotel. New place next to a shopping mall. It was quite cozy. No creepy experience like the one I had in Pullman Hotel, Kuching.
There’s another lobby somewhere above the 10th floor I think. What a strange design.
View of Miri from my hotel room
I woke up late and had to rush to get ready. The organizers thought I had food poisoning hence the lateness.
The seminar had about 50 people consisting of lawyers, architects, tax agents, bankers etc. It was held in a seminar room of a hotel.
I am told that Miri has around 100 lawyers. The relationship between Miri lawyers with Kuching, Bintulu and Limbang lawyers seems to be close although these places are far apart. Everyone seems to know each other. In fact, I recognised 2 of the participants from my previous talk in Kuching. I guess most of them travel in and out from these places.
I was presented with a pen as a token of appreciation. I was also give a thumb drive from a fellow participant from Bank Rakyat. What a surprise. Never had I received presents from my seminar participants!
After the talk, I met up with fellow Mirian, Darren Lo. He brought me to a place to have ABC (shaved ice). Good to catch up with an old friend.
I am told that property prices in Miri has also shot up. Terraced houses go for RM300,000. However, there is an oversupply of commercial units.
There are some concerns with Brunei especially with the proposed implementation of Shariah law. A dress code will also be rolled out in Brunei. Men are require to cover their knees. Women cannot wear short sleeves and tight clothing. And this rule is applicable to non Muslims.
Before my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, Jimmy brought me to Tanjung Seafood Restaurant for drinks and food. Local lawyer, Arthur Lee brought 2 bottles of single malt whiskey for us to enjoy. I am told that this is done every Friday.
I had to take leave after a few drinks to catch my flight. It was a rather uneventful flight back. The 2 hours journey from Miri to Kuala Lumpur was quick.
After driving a Proton car for 15 years, I finally said goodbye to this brand. My 5 years old Proton Saga was traded in for Mazda 6 2.0. It certainly cost a lot more but as a businessman now, I would need to drive a nicer car. Furthermore, my Proton Saga was falling apart thus it was the right time to change it.
It was also a business decision. As the car is purchased for the use of my law firm, I am entitled to claim capital allowance. This would mean less tax!
No doubt the car was a good buy. It comes with fuel saving Skyactive technology and various electronic features. Very spacious, the drive is smooth and fuel consumption is great. I think all I have for this car is praises. I guess any car seems better after driving a Proton for 15 years!
My father had always discouraged me to buy an expensive car. That is why I have been driving a Proton all these years.
My Proton Saga was purchased by my car salesman for his sister’s use. It was difficult to get a good price. I bought it for RM45,000. 5 years later, I could only sell it for RM16,000. The offers I got were around RM12, 000 to RM14, 000. I am told that the low price is due to Proton offering discounted prices for their new Saga cars.
The only complaint I have of my Mazda 6 is that it doesn’t have some very basic features.
There is no spare tyre and no auto lock (when the car is moving). There’s no button at the driver’s seat to open to boot!
Since the car quite long, I also can’t park my car in my porch as the road infront of my house is very narrow. If someone parks infront of my gate, I won’t be able to drive my car out. When I had my Proton Saga, I usually bump into such car to get out. Now I have to park my car outside the house. Hope it doesn’t get stolen!
I showed my new car to my client and he said, “Finally, you look like a lawyer!”
At about 2am, I woke up hearing my wife groaning in pain. We thought it was just contraction pain and it may go away later. We were scheduled to meet our gynae the next morning.
However, the pain became unbearable and we came to the conclusion that my wife is going in labour. We were not sure because her water has not broke. Nevertheless, we packed our bags and headed straight to Pantai Hospital Bangsar. I brought my dSLR along.
I dropped her at the emergency counter and headed straight to the parking lot. When I got to the emergency counter, my wife was not there. I was told that she had been brought to the maternity ward.
The hospital was almost empty at that time. There were some guards but most of them were sleeping (one was snoring loudly). I wandered around the corridors before finding the maternity ward. There I found my wife on the bed. We were told that our gynae, Dr Patrick Chia, was on the way.
I must thank the person who invented epidural. Within a few minutes the pain went away. Nevertheless, we had to wait for the cervical dilation and I slept on the hospital chair. I had a sore bum a few hours later.
I drove out from the hospital to have lunch and check on our house. I returned to the hospital after taking a short nap at home.
We were planning to have natural birth but we abandoned the plan as our baby’s head was not in the proper position. We had to go for cesarean birth instead. It all happened in a jiff. Within minutes, my wife was wheeled to the operation room.
I had to change to hospital clothes and had to wait in a room.
I took this picture and posted it on Instagram.
Few minutes later, I was escorted to the operation room. By the time I was in the room, the doctors and nurses have started operating on my wife. The room was spacious and cold.
She said she didn’t feel any pain. The doctors and nurses seem to be having a hard time pulling our baby out. I think there were 5 people trying to get the baby out.
At 1:43pm on 1st April 2014, Foong Livia was born. She was 3.5kg.
The nurse immediately brought Livia to another table to clean her up. She wiped blood off her and clamped her umbilical cord. She also cut off Livia’s excessive cord and packed it into a bag.
I then pointed to a bowl filled with blood to the nurse.
“Is that the placenta?”
Livia was then brought to the nursery. I escorted her there while the doctors were patching my wife up. Livia was crying and seems to be shivering from the cold. I held her arms and feet to warm her up.
A nurse gave her 2 injections and she shrieked a little. After spending some time with her, I went back to our ward, C325, to check on my wife. She was no where to seen. I waited an hour and yet still no news about her. I got worried as the doctors and nurses were a bit rough on her. I later found out that she spent some time in the recovery room.
My wife’s second aunt and grandma were waiting at the lounge. They too were eagerly waiting for the arrival of my wife and Livia.
We were swamped with visitors for the first few days. Many brought gifts. Many thanks to those who came.
Livia had jaundice. We had to put her under ultraviolet light.
Livia and I before we left for home.
Livia opened her eyes on the second day. Here we are having a staring contest.
Wife was discharged on Friday and drove her and Livia home immediately. I’ve never driven so slow in my life.
We immediately picked up our confinement lady, Mei Che. She had been a great help. I wouldn’t know what we would do without her. She cleaned, cooked and took care of Livia for us.
My routine didn’t change much but my wife’s routine turned 360 degrees. Livia is being breastfed and she wants her milk every 1 – 3 hours. Sometime my wife takes an hour to feed Livia!
The feeling of being a father is a feeling that I’ve never felt before. Whenever I think of my little one, I feel joy in my heart.
Once again, I was elected as a committee member of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee for the year 2014 / 2015. This year’s Kuala Lumpur Bar Annual General Meeting went on smoothly and we achieved the highest quorum in the history of the Kuala Lumpur Bar. Fellow committee member, Jerry and I, gave a talk on data protection – a hot topic this year – during the AGM. This probably explains why we had the highest quorum in history this year!
Unlike last year, there was no voting as there were no extra candidates running for committee. I am chairing the Kuala Lumpur Information Technology and Publications Committee again this year.
I was also appointed as a co-chairperson of the Malaysian Bar Ad Hoc Committee on Personal Data Protection. Suaran Singh and Steven Thiru are my other co-chairpersons. I had asked for this committee to be formed when I was in the Bar Council Intellectual Property Committee. There was only a few of us in this Intellectual Property Committee that knows data protection laws well hence there was a need for a new committee to manage this new law.
I contacted quite a number of lawyers to join the committee and all of them were interested. For the first time, we had a group of Malaysian data protection lawyers sitting together to discuss on the data protection practice for lawyers. I am glad that many of them are very active. There are some committees that have many members but only a few would contribute their time. Sometimes I wonder why those people who do not contribute would want to join a committee if they are not contributing.
It’s been a busy first quarter for me. Bar work takes up quite a bit of my time but I enjoy it. I get to meet many lawyers and many opportunities arise from there. I guess some recognition by other fellow members is priceless.
Notwithstanding my active participation in the Bar, the Bar Council recently announced a ban on the use of virtual offices by lawyers. Circular No 049/2014 stated:-
Circular No 049/2014
Dated 7 Mar 2014
To Members of the Malaysian Bar
Law Firms Operating Through Virtual Offices
It has come to the Bar Council’s attention that several lawyers are operating their law practices through virtual offices.
The concept of a virtual office essentially means there is no physical presence of a law office. The office is “virtual” as it is merely a front, consisting of generic office facilities operated by another company offering the services of a receptionist and/or interchangeable meetings rooms, used by various parties (whether lawyers or not) paying for such services. Any telephone calls made to a lawyer utilising this arrangement are received by the receptionist, on the lawyer’s behalf, who would then convey the communication to the lawyer concerned, for example in a text message through a short message service (“SMS”). Documents are also received, on behalf of the lawyer, by the receptionist. The services of the receptionist and/or use of meeting rooms at a virtual office are shared by other lawyers and/or companies and/or businesses.
The Bar Council is of the view that lawyers practising through virtual offices are in breach of Ruling 7.03 of the Rules and Rulings of the Bar Council Malaysia, which provides as follows:
Where an Advocate and Solicitor shares an office or premises with another person (whether an Advocate and Solicitor or not), the office or premises must be partitioned off with separate and distinct entrances, with no connecting door between the two offices or premises. This Ruling shall not apply to Advocates and Solicitors who are partners of the same law firm.
Where a law firm operates through a virtual office, a further cause for concern arises in respect of confidentiality and the safekeeping of information, including files and documents, which appear to be lax in such virtual offices.
Members are therefore advised to cease such operations with immediate effect, as the Bar Council may take disciplinary action against lawyers who are reported to be operating through virtual offices
It caused dissatisfaction to some lawyers and myself. Instead of sulking, I decided to gather a few lawyers to work on this ban. I was planning to send a memorandum setting out the pros of a virtual office and criticize such ban. However, after meeting up with some of the group members, we decided to send a request for dialogue instead.
One point I learn from this episode is that no authority likes to be challenged. It is best to engage them directly regardless how wrong you think is the decision.
I am pleased that the Bar Council has contacted us to initiate a dialogue. Hope it goes well!
Long, long queue to get in. Tables are small and it’s quite difficult to sit a large crowd. Notwithstanding that, their ramen and hirata bun (char siu with bun) are awesome. Met Sow here for dinner.