Thursday, October 05, 2006

East Meets West 2.0: Taiwan Web Scene Get a Visit from Yours Truly and the Boys from Flickr (Stewart Butterfield) and TechCrunch (Michael Arrington)

Was invited to a great little (well, not so little, as apparently they had ~3000 people attending in one giant hall) Web2.0 Conference in Taipei (English version here) mid last week organized by the government funded "Institute for Information Industry" (a very large and impressive national organization that exceeds the size of anything I've seen in Canada) to kick start the local Web2.0 community. This entry is way overdue, and I've been meaning to blog about it for the longest time and I'm finally getting around to it. I've really gotta get back into this blogging thing.

It was a great opportunity to get to know more about Taiwan Web2.0 scene, and also for me to hang out with my two American hommies in Asia. I am of course, Asian, and have been in Taipei numerous times (usually along with visits to Hong Kong - a travel hub of asia - to friends and family in, where I was born) and have spent in aggregate months over several trips, visiting in Taipei, so it felt just like a 2nd home.

There were a ton of highlights for me, the hosts and organizers were great, and my North American travelers/speakers were a lot fun to hang out with, and the local entrepreneurs made for fantastic company as well. I wish I had more time for this blog posting, but I'll just throw a few items below.. .and hopefully I'll come around to putting up a bigger post to update the points below...

One of the esp. cool things for me was to actually finally meet Stewart Butterfield (co-founder of Flickr) in person. Flickr has had a great deal of influence on me and the development of BubbleShare, and despite being a founder of a photo sharing company, I still very much enjoy and respect Flickr as resource for many things. Its hard for me to believe that after all this time I've yet to run across Stewart on the circuit, the valley, or anywhere else (while he is Canadian, Flickr is on the other coast in Vancouver -- so no easy DemoCamp visits for him, esp. now that he's in the valley).

My other fellow North American speaker was none other than Michael Arrington (Mr. TechCrunch, of course)-- how I keep running into his 6 foot + frame in person conference after conference is beyond me. This is esp. true since I've REALLY cut back on the conference circuit, in fact, the last remote conference I went to was Mix06 in Las Vegas months ago -- which is EXACTLY when I last met Michael at our fateful lunch with Bill Gates (Thanks again Scoble!)

While in Taipei, I also found myself resonating well with the folks (yet another husband and wife team) at HemiDemi -- a Digg like news site for Taiwan. It was pretty surprising to me to hear how Yahoo! has pretty much taken over the Taiwan portal market, with Google being a distant 2nd player in the search specific space. PCHome is apparently the only close rival to Yahoo!'s dominance in the area. Another interesting item that I found was the dominance of, a social networking and photo sharing site that has something like 60-70% market penetration in the Taiwanese market. The pattern I started seeing is that there seems to be a very much winner takes all type scenarios that play out in many geographic regions (perhaps due to not just geographically initiated network effects, but significant and subtle culture/design issues). This level of market share reminds me of the dominance that CyWorld has in Korea (now translated/localized to China, Japan, and the US), and MySpace has in the US, and to a certain extent Friendster's continued hold in Canada.

I really want to write and study further the culture and social online habits of the East vs. the West -- there's a number of really neat things that I've learned after spending some more time here with the geeks and the entrepreneurs here, as well have having now paid more attention to the modern day usage patterns of the Chinese. If anyone has any resources that speak to these issues on line, please fire me a note!

Another interesting side note, and something that I felt that strangely brought me around full circle was that many of our earilest adopters were from Taipei (for whatever reason) -- they were also the ones that did the most innovative things with the very first version of BubbleShare. So in many ways, I felt my visit was a way to give back to that particular community that had such a great influence on us. I was happy to hear from many bloggers, such as this one in particular that thought I was the most interesting speaker of the day (which was honestly surprising to me as I thought both Stewart's and Michael's presentations were much more colorful/interesting than mine... but I'll take the compliment nonetheless ;).

Today will likely be one of my last days in Asia, and it had only occurred to me yesterday in talking to a friend and tech entrepreneur that I should have set up a meetup and perhaps kick off a DemoCampHK to meet the local community. If anyone happens to be reading this today, and is interested in connecting -- fire me an email, and perhaps we can find a time to gather up the local web community to have a drink in the SoHo area.

More photos and stories to follow....

Side note: Many thanks also goes out to George our translator/co-host and former taiwan-based VC/US graduate, and Shan - our great III lead host and organizer for the event.