Vienna, Austria 2013

As part of our Europe trip, we stopped by Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia. We spent most of our time in Vienna and only half a day in Bratislava.

I like Vienna. It’s spacious and clean. The buildings and architecture are interesting.

The train system is smooth and simple. It’s also linked to the tram system. However, getting around can be difficult as the names of the places are long. If you look at the map, you probably won’t be able to find a place as it is too comprehensive.


The only drawback of this place is that it is very expensive. A meal for two can costs 30 Euro. Tipping is required. 10% of the bill is sufficient.

Shelves made of paper boxes! Each drawer has a bag.

A day trip train costs me 7 Euro but the good thing is that they usually do not check your tickets and there are no barriers to the train stations. It reminds me of Berlin’s train stations. 

We stayed in a nice apartment nearby Meidling HauptstraBe station. It looks plain from outside but the apartment was beautiful!

We found the place through AirBnB. Our host doesn’t live in the apartment thus we got the whole place for ourselves. She installed a small locker on the door. She kept the key to the door inside. In order to open the locker, we would need a passcode and this was given by our host.

Our host had everything ready for us. She had power plug converters to a written guide (of places to visit and eat) of the city by her!

View of the canal outside our place. It was so hot that some ladies soaked themselves in the canal. And they got to the front page from doing that.

Free WiFi is abundant in Vienna city centre. You can get them at the major train stations or restaurants provided by one company called

St. Stephen’s Cathedral. One of the most prominent landmarks in Vienna. Loads of shopping arcades, restaurants and cafes surrounding the cathedral.

We didn’t do much research on the places to visit. Since we don’t have much time, we took the Old Timer city tour around Vienna. It’s a one hour on an open roof truck (hot hot hot!) mostly around the older part of Vienna. We got to see many popular tourist spots (many statutes too!). But we could only see those spots from afar as the truck doesn’t stop.

Old Timer!

I initially thought this place is a hotel but later found out it is not.

We even pass by a art school which Adolf Hitler tried to enroll when he was younger but got rejected. One interesting fact about Adolf Hitler is that he was an Austrian and wanted to be a painter.

Statue of a man on the roof. Can’t seem to find information about this statue. It has something to do with commemorating the first suicide after a stock market crashed. Anyone knows?

My favourite story about Vienna is how coffee was introduced to Vienna after the Battle of Vienna. After the Ottoman Empire retreated from Vienna, bags of coffee were found in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki took these bags of coffee and opened a cafe. However, to be frank, I didn’t like Viennese coffee. I prefer the dark and strong Melbourne-style coffee.

We were in Vienna for 4 days. It was sufficient for us to see the main tourist attractions in the city. We returned to London after our Austria trip.

More later!

Startup Asia Conference 2013, Singapore

I was invited by a Singaporean law firm to give a talk about the Malaysia data protection laws to their clients on 5 April 2013. Coincidentally, the Startup Asia Conference 2013 falls a day before my talk thus I signed up for it. Melissa of PerkPool also signed up for it.

This time round, I stayed at Value Hotel Thomson, Balestier Road, Novena. It’s a decent hotel except that my room has no windows.

Restaurant next to the hotel. Anal Fin anyone?

The event was attended by over 700 tech startups and investors coming from many parts of South East Asia, and even Taiwan, China and Japan. I was amazed with the amount of expats in the Singaporean startup scene. Many of them have planted themselves in Singapore to start their business.

The 2-day conference had 100 over start up booths (mostly with very small booth – just enough to put a laptop). The booths were always packed with people. Melissa and I went to almost each booth to ask them what they do and exchanged name cards with them. Approaching people at the booths seems like an effective way to network for me. It’s easier to talk to some strangers standing by the side minding their own business.

Stefan Jung of Rocket Internet. Rocket Internet is an international online venture with more than 100 over market leading companies in 40 over countries. They own Zalora in Malaysia.

Of all the startups exhibiting at the booths and/or presenting at the event, these are my favourites:-

Kwix – a Singapore startup with an app that allows you to order your food via your mobile phone while you are in a restaurant. The kitchen will be notified of your order. No need for waiters! – a Singapore startup with a portal that finds and books meeting and party venues in Singapore .
LoveBytes – An app that allows a couple to share things and document the relationship eg how many days together!
Shiroubu -a Japanese startup to connect travellers and tour guides. Anyone can be a tour guide!
Social Happen – a Thai startup with an app that gets users to do certain tasks when they are at a merchant’s premises. If the user completes the task and clicks on a button on the App, the user will be rewarded a gift from a vending machine.
PiktoChart – Malaysia startup with an app that helps people to build infographics fast and pretty. They got a really cute name card!

Lots of Buttons – A Hong Kong e-commerce that sells craft buttons at 50% of retail price. They have 25,000 buttons for sale! – Founded by Sense Luo, is a China start-up dating website for gays. It’s interesting to note that 30million Chinese are homosexual. That’s like the whole of Malaysia!

One interesting feature of Xunta is that it allows gays to exchange name cards. The name card has a unique code for each user. With the code, the recipient can locate the other person on Xunta.

According to Sense Luo, 60, 000 gays have signed up with Xunta without promotion. The 7 person team’s target revenue is USD700,000 per year. Sense says 6 people in their team are gays.

The event had excellent speakers from the regions I mentioned just now. Some are successful startup owners and some work for well known brands such as AirBnB and Twitter. Here are some points I picked up throughout the talk:-

PropertyGuru co-founder, Steve Melhuish is a British who travelled around Asia for 6 months before settling in Singapore.

He found that there was a void in the property industry in Singapore when he came to Singapore. With this void, he created PropertyGuru with some friends. But PropertyGuru had 3 competitors within few months of operation. The founders did not draw any salary for the 1st and 2nd year. Hardest challenge initially was to get property agents to advertise on the Internet. Property agents were using traditional media for a long time.

Today they have 24, 000 property agents. Revenue for the year 2012 is not published but Steve revealed its 10 over million. They have expanded to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

However, Steve said he regretted expanding 2 other countries too fast as it stretched their resources. Before that, they had only 1 country to manage but now they need to focus on four.

Steve advised that entrepreneurs to build depth in home country first before expanding to other countries. He revealed that PropertyGuru’s next target is Hong Kong and they are starting IPO this year.

Lastly, Steve also advised entrepreneurs that if they believe in something, just do it! Take risk, believe in yourself and be passionate.


One of my favourite tech companies, AirBnB has set up an office in Singapore early last year. It is valued at USD1+ Billion now. AirBnB is social website that connects people who have space to spare with those who are looking for a place to stay.

AirBnB relies on word of mouth to promote. They had 3 million bookings in 2012 and have loads of hosts in Bali, Koh Samui and Phuket listed on AirBnB.

Sometime in 2011, a AirBnB host’s home got thrashed by a user in 2011. With this incident, AirBnB introduced safety measures to verify users.

Notwithstanding the horror story, AirBnB brought fortunes to many people. A Cambodian AirBnB host charges USD16 per night and he uses that money to fund 5 of his brothers’ education.

We also managed to pick up many interesting facts about specific markets. In Vietnam, there are 91 million people. 95% of 15 – 24 years old are connected to the Internet. They have cash on delivery culture in Vietnam. E-commerce operators have to deliver products to customers before they pay.

In South Korea, you should launch an Android App 1st instead of iOS because the former leads in South Korea. Also, in Korea, you can send offline gifts using bar codes. Recipients can redeem gift at merchant’s outlet eg coffee.

Barrier to entry is pretty low in Singapore. It’s easy to set up and do business. However, it is difficult to do so in places like Indonesia and India.

You can get more tweets by checking out the #startupAsia hashtag or read TechinAsia.

Kee Lock Chua‘s analogy on taichi and copycats was a great eye opener. He said one can copy a taichi move but it is nothing unless one execute the correct breathing. Same like businesses. One can copy your business model but it is no use unless he or she understand how it actually works.

I had to leave early on the 2nd day because I had to give a talk organised by the Singaporean law firm. It’s actually my second time with them. The last round we had 60 over people but this time round we had 200 over people! Singapore has just passed their own data protection laws thus many people are interested in this topic. I’m glad that I got the opportunity to speak to their clients on the Malaysian perspective. 

It looks like this year is going to be a journey on data protection and startup related matters. Hope it turns out well!