They Can Hear You Now

They Can Hear You Now – an article by Los Angeles Times telling very interesting stories of how cellphones are moving the developing world into the global village. Here are snapshots of the article:

“Iquitos and nearby riverside hamlets are among the more remote outposts in South America’s expanding mobile phone system, part of a global network that is beginning to penetrate even the poorest and most undeveloped corners of the world.

For millions of people living in countries where getting a fixed phone line remains a bureaucratic impossibility, the cellphone revolution has allowed them to leapfrog from archaic forms of communication straight into the digital era — and that is changing the fabric of their daily lives.

In East Africa, the mobile phone has brought a first, tantalizing taste of modernity to people who live on less than $10 a day. In China, the world’s biggest market for cellphones, they are embraced by rich and poor alike, a tiny pocket computer with which to surf the Internet, play video games or even do banking.”

“The number of cellphones in Latin America has tripled since 1999, and one in five people now owns one. In Peru, as in many other countries in the region, there are more cellphones than fixed phone lines.

Today, the world’s fastest-growing cellphone markets are in places like Iquitos in rural South America and in sub-Saharan Africa, despite widespread poverty.”

“As in Rwanda, people elsewhere across Africa are coming to appreciate and rely upon the magic of the cellphone — communicating with a distant friend while under a baobab tree in Mali, for example, or on the Kenyan savanna. In Senegal, farmers use them in their annual, age-old battle against plagues of locusts, calling each other and the authorities to keep track of the progress of insect “hopper bands.”

In Somalia, men in loincloths flash their cellphones as they guide camels to port. Masai warriors in Tanzania pull phones from their red shuka robes to call gem brokers when they find glimmering purple-blue tanzanite, a rare gemstone found only in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

“The cellphone is spreading, thanks to “prepaid” service plans, which can lower the cost to a few dollars a month.

In Lima, Peru’s capital, vendors sell prepaid phone time the same way they sell peanuts: by standing between lines of cars waiting for the light to turn green. You hand over the equivalent of a few dollars and get a coded card, which you use to “charge up” your phone with time credit.

In Peru, these consumers far outnumber “postpaid” users, who get a bill for their calls each month.”

e-Challenge Kick-off

BASES (Business Association of Sanford Engineer Students) had its famous annual e-Challenge kick-off event today. The legenary entrepreneur and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was the keynote speaker. He started off by saying:

“Entrepreneurship is about … those who dare to dream the dreams and are foolish enough to try and make their dreams come true.”

This is the best definition of entrepreneurship I have ever heard. It really captures the essence of being a real entrepreneur!

Among many interesting points Vinod talked about, here are the ones that resonate with me:

  • In entrepreneurship, there is no rule to follow. If you follow others’ rule, you are limiting yourself. Don’t limit yourself!
  • Knowing your goals and knowing what you don’t know
  • Identify your liabilities and assets. The business plan should maximizing your assets and minimizing your liability
  • Put yourself in the competitors’ shoes
  • People are ultimate assets – beyond the word.
  • Identify top 10 risks for your business and think who has the skills in your organization to deal with these risks. Recruit 20 people for each risk.
  • Encourage different points of view within the organization
  • Balance of process and innovation is difficult but very important
  • Find other’s wave to ride – leverage the resouces

In the end, he said: Don’t start until you have a passion for your vision. Entrepreneurs with irrational beliefs for their visions are most likely to succeed. This is especially true when there are dificulties – when other people stop, they will still find a way to do it.

Vinod talked about discontinuity of technolgoy, business model and social entrepreneurship. He gave special credit to microcredit. He said, in general, he enjoy doing things that can make a difference.

Success of i-Mode

NTT DoCoMo‘s success in mobile data communications is something worth looking into. DoCoMo offers a wide range of services covering transaction, database, information and entertainment applications

  • Banking
  • Ticket reservation
  • Restaurant guide
  • Business/technology news
  • Club event information

DoCoMo generates revenues from commission charged on collecting subscription fees on behalf of content and service providers. General considered far superior to WAP, i-mode’s multimedia system has adopted packet switching and it charges customers according to the quantity of data downloaded rather than the connection’s time. i-Mode uses compact HTML for its programming language, practically eleiminating the switching cost for content providers. Packet switching keeps the i-Mode handset in “always-on” mode, meaning it is always ready to receive data, thus providing increased convenience to users. In addition, i-Mode has created a successful business model. It provides a platform on which third-party content providers supply the content. In 2000, there are 448 application alliance companies and 8023 voluntary i-Mode Internet websites. It generates $10 billion in revenue.

The Art of The Start

Guy Kawasaki talked about his new book The Art of the Start at Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar. As usual, he is very entertaining. He mentioned three things to make meaning while starting a company:

  1. Increase the quality of people’s life
  2. Right a terrible wrong
  3. Prevent the end of a good thing

In the end, there is a book signing session. Like everyone else, I had him autographed the book. He wrote at the front page: “Helen, change the world!” 🙂

Infinit Vision

At DV seminar today, Pavi Krishnan showed a documentary Infinite Vision – a very inspiring story about Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy (Dr. V) and Aranvind Eye Care System. It’s amazing that Dr. V turned a 11-bed clinic into one of the largest eye care facility in the world, treating over 1.4 million patients each year, two-thirds of them for free. The film is beautiful, inspring and spiritual. I would like to see it again if I have a chance.

The following poem captured the essence of Dr. V’s spirit and remarkable work he has done with Aranvind Eye Care System:

Because thou hast obeyed my timeless will

Because thou hast chosen to share earth’s struggle and fate

And leaned in pity over earth-bound men

And turned aside to help and yearned to save

I bind by thy heart’s passion thy heart to mine

And lay my splendid yoke upon thy soul

Now will I do in Thee my marvelous works

– ‘Savitri’, Sri Aurobindo

SVCwireless Conference

SVCwireless Annual Conference today was a successful one.

Jeff Hawkins, the inventor and founder of Palm, gave the morning keynote speach. During the break, I introduced the Digital Vision program to him and talked about possibility of inviting him to give a talk. He certainly expressed interest as he said that he would like more and more people in developing countries to use PDAs.

On the hall way, I met Mark T. Dempster of Sequoia Capital – the legenary Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Mark is a marketing person for Sequoia Capital. Apparently, he was looking for “entrepreneurs.” I gave him my business card and briefly introduced my project. Mark was very interested and said Sequoia Capital only invests in the companies that 1) incorporated in the U.S. (operation can be overseas); 2) not too early in technology – in another words, the technology should show some sign of maturing.

On the VC panel, Andy Yan from the Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund said that three portals in China –,, received 70 % profit from SMS via 9.8 kbps. It was a big surprise that SMS became a billion dollar business.

Gaurav Garg of Sequoia Capital said they are looking for the following in the companies they want to invest:

  • Clear purpose
  • Spetacular market
  • Alleviate customers’ pain
  • Team DNA
  • Incredible product focus
  • Real operating margins
  • Frugality
  • Inferno with a single match

He also said carriers have four major problems: revenue, profit, ARPU (average revenue per user), and subscribers. Is someone can solve these problems, he would like to talk to them!


Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Program presents weekly semiars feagured with speakers of successful entrepreneurs in the Valley. John Miner of Intel Capital gave a presentation on “Globalization and the Silicon Valley Entreperneurs.” He urges the new entrepreneurs have global perspectives since business landscape has changed. About three billion new comsumers in the developing countries are entering the global market. Intel Capital invests about 70 – 75 % in businesses outside the United States.

Here is an interesting chart Mr. Miner presented:

#1Technolgoy Markets 2002 2006
Mobile Phones China China
Cable TV China China
Telephone Lines U.S. China
Internet Users U.S. China
Broadband U.S. China
VoIP Users Japan China
Linux PC Clients ? China

Seminar with Lakshmi Pratury

Lakshmi Pratury from American India Foundation give us a talk about her personal experience from a young girl trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life to answering her calling to run a NGO that provides computers for children in India. She starts with a statement: “Changing the world is a lifetime endeavor – if you are lucky.” Her life experience tells her that “you come to term with what you have and make best of it.” I think there is great wisdom in it.

Three themes of her talk:

  • Communication at all levels at Intel. That was such a good practice that everyone’s voice get heard.
  • Learning from doing. Intel realized the power of branding only after a desasterous mistake. Sometimes, the biggest mistake is blessing in disguise.
  • Her decision to leave Intel and started American India Foundation to provide education and IT to children in India.

She shared several insightful perspectives: the poor wants the same thing we want for the same reason; giving to what matters to you that can make a difference to someone else life.

This is one of the enjoyable seminars we have had.

SMS Triumph

The short messaging service (SMS) industry is booming on the mainland China. Portals such as, and are posting profit thanks to a boom in text messaging and other mobile services last year.

As SMS spreads news, it is now being dubbed the “the fifth media” after print, radio, television and the Internet. Experts say the SMS market is now worth at least one billion yuan a month and growing.

In 2004, there are about 300 million cell phone subscribers but only 70 million Internet users in China, implying that the wireless Internet is more widely accessible than the wireline Internet. Thus, subscribers use their mobile handsets as a subsititute for PCs for sending and receiving email, or, more precisely, text messages. The only difference is that SMS is limited to a maximum of 160 characters.

Mobile Micro e-Biz

Finally, the picture of my project becomes clearer. Here is a short description:

Mobile Micro e-Biz is a project applying mobile technologies with innovative solutions to empower micro-business entrepreneurs in developing countries, and help them leapfrog economic and technological gaps and provide opportunities and tools for them to help themselves.

Many small businesses and individuals in developing countries do not have computers and cannot access the Internet. However, a large portion of them own cell phones due to their low cost and infrastructure pervasiveness. This project examines the feasibility of using SMS (Short Messaging Service) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technologies to help micro businesses and entrepreneurs to sell their products and services onto the Internet marketplace such as eBay, Yahoo!, Froogle, and, etc. A user case study will be conducted in China, and a closer look at APIs for mobile applications will also be investigated. The outcome of the project will be a prototype of mobile interface that communicates between cell phone and the Internet for small business transaction.

I want to attribute to my husband Paul for his brilliant insight and unwavering support.