Monthly Archives: March 2016

By Me Last Week: Facebook Asia-Pac VP Dan Neary Talks Growth in the Region

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Facebook, as we all know, has a gargantuan user base — some 1.59 billion people, to be exact.

And as its recent earnings show, the company is doing extremely well, raking in more than $1 billion in quarterly profit for the first time.

Last week here in Singapore I spoke with Dan Neary (pictured), Facebook’s Asia-Pacific vice president, about big picture trends in the region.

In short, the company seems to have many reasons to be bullish on continued Asia expansion.

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. is adding users in Asia at a much faster rate than other parts of the world, an executive said, showing the recent controversy over the firm’s free Internet service in India is not deterring the social networking giant’s expansion in this part of the world.

Dan Neary, Facebook’s vice president for Asia Pacific, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday that some 540 million of Facebook’s 1.59 billion monthly active users were in Asia as of the end of December, up from 449 million a year earlier.

Facebook is adding users in Asia at a rate of about 20% annually compared to 14% globally, he said.

“The potential is greater in Asia-Pacific than it is in any other region because we’ve got two thirds of the world’s population, and it’s all mobile,” Mr. Neary said.

Also, for the first time, Instagram has broken out the number of users in a country outside the U.S.: It has 22 million in Indonesia, up from 11 million a year ago:

Mr. Neary pointed out that the company’s image-sharing platform, Instagram, is popular in many parts of Asia, as is its WhatsApp messaging app. Instagram is making particularly big gains in Indonesia, Mr. Neary said, which is a key global market due to its population of 250 million.

The service now has some 22 million monthly active users, up from 11 million a year earlier, making it one of Instagram’s fastest growing markets. Instagram has not previously broken out its user base by country, though it said in September that more than 75% of its community is outside the U.S.

Again, the full story in online here.

My Brief Chat with Pat Conroy in 1995

 

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Novelist and long-time South Carolina resident Pat Conroy, pictured above, died Friday. From the Charleston, SC Post and Courier obit:

Pat Conroy, the best-selling novelist and proud adoptive son of the Lowcountry who wrote lyrically about Charleston and unflinchingly about The Citadel, died Friday. He was 70.

The author of “The Great Santini,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Prince of Tides” and eight other books passed away shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died at 7:43 p.m., surrounded by loved ones and family.

I wanted to expand on these Tweets I posted not long after the news broke:

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I enjoyed Conroy’s books for their lyricism and their setting: Like Conroy, I moved to South Carolina’s Lowcountry as a teenager, first landing in Hilton Head and then moving up the coast to Beaufort. And I appreciated that he so vividly portrayed what is so compelling about the South — namely, its many warm people and its haunting geography, especially along the coastline, which is dotted with marshes and trees that drip Spanish moss.

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At the same time, though, Conroy did not shy away from illuminating the region’s many flaws, such as its horrendous legacy of racism and the fact that bigoted attitudes are still a fact of life for many even today.

In 1995, it must have been, when Beach Music came out, Conroy appeared at a bookstore on the Emory University campus in Atlanta, where I was a junior and studying English.

Like many college students, I was short on cash, and wasn’t able to spring for the hardcover of the new book. But I brought an old, battered mass market paperback copy of The Prince of Tides, his previous novel, that I’d brought to school and had recently read.

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He was there with this father — an abusive figure he’d written about; he stood by silently — and when the event ended I approached the younger Conroy. When I told him I was “from” Beaufort, he broke into a big grin, shook my hand, and said he was delighted to meet me.

He asked me a few questions about what I studying, and said I should “give him a holler” if I ever saw him out and about back at home.

I never saw him again, but that brief interaction has remained with me all these years.

I’ll have to search out that copy of The Prince of Tides I gave him to sign — appropriately, it remains at the family home in SC — but if memory serves, the inscription reads, “To Newley, for the love of South Carolina and the Lowcountry.”

By Me Today: 500 Startups Invests in Vietnam

The story begins:

Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups is starting a fund to pump money into Vietnam, a sign that some foreign investors believe the communist state’s technology scene is set to blossom.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based seed investor and startup incubator said Tuesday that it aims to invest $10 million in some 100 to 150 startups in the fast-growing country.

“I’ve been watching the tech scene here since 2010, and back then it was way too early” to invest, Eddie Thai, a 500 Startups venture partner, told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday at an event to launch the fund in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Over that period of time, the macros [macroeconomic conditions] improved,” said Mr. Thai. “Internet access improved, smartphones became ubiquitous,” and the teams running startups in Vietnam have gotten “stronger and stronger every year,” he said. “This is our call to everybody to say we’re investing, come to us.”

U.K.-based consultancy We Are Social says smartphone ownership is growing quickly in Vietnam, and that 55% of adults in the country now use the devices. The country is also young: Some 41% of the country’s more than 94 million people are below the age of 24, according to CIA World Factbook data. That means there is a huge potential for companies to tap into a growing base of users.

By Me Last Week: Tech Talent is Returning to India

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I had a story Wednesday on the front page of our Business & Tech section. You can see it in this image, under the headline “India Welcomes Home Tech Talent.”

It’s about Indian-born entreprenuers who are increasingly returning to their home country to build startups.

The piece, available online here, begins:

BANGALORE, India—Last year, Abhinandan Balasubramanian quit his job at a London-based financial-technology company. The startup scene in his native India was booming, and he wanted in.

The 25-year-old Mr. Balasubramanian moved to Mumbai and in December launched his own business there: Altflo, a global online marketplace for assets such as real estate and shares in investment funds.

Basing Altflo in India was an easy decision, Mr. Balasubramanian said. “The cost of scaling the company is much lower in India,” he said. Office space and talent are “multiples cheaper than in the U.K.”

Lured by a flood of venture-capital funding, relatively inexpensive labor and the size of the potential market in the world’s second-most-populous country, entrepreneurs and technology workers with Indian roots have been coming home in increasing numbers.

In This Week’s Newsletter: Oatmeal-Centric Restaurants, Nate Silver, Why Chocolate May be Good for Your Noggin

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Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links

What I wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

Uber Rolls Out Motorcycle-Booking Service in Bangkok — The world’s most valuable startup picked Thailand for its first service allowing users to book motorbikes through its app.

(Those who have visited the Kingdom or other parts of Southeast Asia know that motorcycle taxis are popular in the region because they allow a cheap, easy way to cut through traffic-clogged metropolises. I was reminded how strange they might seem to outsiders, however, by someone who left a one-word comment on the story: #deathwish.”)

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1. There exists in America a restaurant that serves 30 different kinds of oatmeal. Amazingly, it is in New York’s Greenwich Village, not Portland, Oregon. (Thanks, Anasuya!)

2. Worth a listen if you’re interested in economics, politics, sports, forecasting, and/or statistics: Nate Silver talks to Tyler Cowen about just about everything you can imagine.

3. Research finding of the week: “Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study.” Yesssssss…

4. Good stuff from The Wirecutter: a detailed guide to improving your smartphone’s battery life

5. Here’s an interesting New Yorker profile of the legendarily frugal Peter Adeney, the Canadian man behind popular blogMr. Money Mustache.

Have a great week!

— @Newley