Echelon 2014

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.

Startup booths

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!

Good to see friends progressing in life.

Hong Kong, 2014

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.

The conference was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. I was here in 2009 to attend the Asian Patents Attorney Conference (APAA).

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!).


Free chalk!

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.

Next INTA, San Diego!

Miri, 2014

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.