Archive | Journalism

By Me and a Colleague: Facebook’s Iniative Faces Pushback

The story, which ran last week online and on the front page of The WSJ‘s global edition, begins:

When Muhammad Maiyagy Gery heard about a new mobile app from Facebook Inc. that provides free Internet access in his native Indonesia, he was excited.

But after testing it, the 24-year-old student from a mining town on the eastern edge of Borneo soon deleted the app, called, frustrated that he was unable to access and some local Indonesian sites.

Mr. Gery said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is an “inspiration in the tech world,” but added that the company’s free Internet effort is “inadequate.”

Mr. Gery’s reaction illustrates the unexpected criticism Facebook has encountered to its bold initiative to bring free Internet access to the world’s four billion people who don’t have it, and to increase connectivity among those with limited access. He is one of many users who say a Facebook-led partnership is providing truncated access to websites, thwarting the principles of what is known in the U.S. as net neutrality—the view that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to dictate consumer access to websites.

Embedded above and online here is an accompanying video. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

There’s also a piece called “5 Things to Know about Facebook’s Internet Initiative.”


By Me Yesterday: Singapore Online Grocery Startup RedMart Hires Amazon Exec

The story begins:

Singapore-based online grocery-delivery service RedMart has scored some valuable new talent in its quest to conquer Southeast Asia.

The startup said Thursday it has hired a longtime senior executive at Inc. who once spent two years as a technical adviser to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.

Colin Bryar, a former Amazon vice president, has joined Redmart as the company’s chief operating officer, and will oversee issues such as engineering, marketing and operations, according to RedMarket Chief Executive Roger Egan.

Mr. Bryar has “such tremendous experience shadowing one of the top leaders in tech for two plus years,” Mr. Egan told The Wall Street Journal.


By Me: Commercial Drone Startups Are Taking Off Here in Asia

The story begins:

Half a dozen men gathered around a workbench in a government building one morning as Tack Wai Wong, an engineering expert clad in a crisp white shirt and gray trousers, took his place at the front of the table.

“Once upon a time all of this was military technology,” said Mr. Wong, 50 years old, as he ran his fingers along the rotors of one of several small unmanned aerial vehicles spread out before him. “Now you can make drones yourself.”

The workshop was aimed at teaching people in this tightly controlled city-state how to fly drones safely—and maybe even hatch ideas for commercial applications.

The U.S. is a hotbed for commercial drone startups, and the Federal Aviation Administration in February proposed long-awaited rules for drones that will likely make their use even more widespread in the country.

But drone startups are increasingly taking flight across Asia. They are using the crafts to locate faulty solar panels in Singapore, prospect land in the Philippines, map plantations in Thailand and more. While companies also use such applications in other parts of the world, entrepreneurs here are working with cooperative governments in some places, taking advantage of lax regulations in others, and providing services that appeal to local markets in new ways.

There’s also a slideshow and, embedded above, a video (narrated by yours truly).


Exclusive by Me and a Colleague Yesterday: GrabTaxi Raises New Funds

The story begins:

More cash is pouring into the increasingly competitive ride-hailing business in Asia, fueling local competitors to global market leader Uber Technologies Inc.

Southeast Asia-focused ride-hailing app GrabTaxi is getting an infusion of over $200 million in fresh capital in its latest fundraising round led by U.S. hedge fund Coatue Management LLC, according to a person familiar with the situation. The investment values the company at over $1.5 billion including the fresh capital from the latest fundraising, according to the person.

Existing investors in the company, including Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and Tiger Global Management LLC, are also participating in the round, the person said. It is possible that GrabTaxi could increase the size of the round with the inclusion of additional investment in coming weeks, the person said.

GrabTaxi is among a crop of local competitors in Asia that have sprung up to battle with global ride-hailing market leader Uber across the region. Local competitors in Asia include China’s Didi Kuaidi, which is raising $2 billion in funding, India’s Ola and Easy Taxi. Uber itself is raising funds specifically for its China unit.


By Me Yesterday: Q&A with Symantec CEO

The story begins:

The new Symantec isn’t the old Symantec.

That’s according to Chief Executive Michael Brown, who says the company, which developed computer security with its antivirus software in the late 1980s, is now concentrating on producing newer products and services amid a rise in high profile attacks in the U.S. and abroad.

Some see the well-established Mountain View, Calif.-based Symantec — which says some 99% of Fortune 500 companies are its clients — as struggling to compete with security upstarts like Palo Alto Networks and FireEye.

But Brown stresses that Symantec is moving to introduce new offerings like a service that prioritizes security alerts so that workers can determine which are most pressing.

Symantec in October 2014 said it was planning to divide its cybersecurity and Veritas information-management business into two publicly traded companies. The Wall Street Journal in April reported the company was exploring a sale of Veritas in lieu of splitting it off.

Symantec in the quarter ended April 3 reported revenue of $1.52 billion, down from $1.63 billion a year earlier. Net income fell to $176 million from $217 million a year earlier.

In an interview earlier this week in Singapore, Brown talked about what he says are misconceptions about the company, and what lies ahead.


By Me Yesterday: The Taj Mahal Just Got Free Wi-Fi

The post, at our Digits blog, begins:

The Taj Mahal: India’s most famous monument, where visitors can take in a striking example of Mughal architecture, gaze at the edifice’s gleaming white marble, and…surf the Internet via free Wi-Fi.

Wait, free Wi-Fi? You better believe it.

India’s federal information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Tuesday took to Twitter to kick off a new service in which state-run telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam is providing the service at the famed 17th century mausoleum.

Click through to read more.

Do we not live in an amazing world?


By Me Last Week: Twitter to Beef up Singapore Office

The story, which ran on Thursday, began:

Twitter Inc. plans to double its staff in Singapore over the next two years as it seeks to lure new users and advertisers in Asia, an executive said.

Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice president for Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that the company will hire more than 100 new staff in Singapore, doubling its current workforce of about 80 employees. Twitter opened a small office in Singapore in 2013 and in recent weeks has moved to a larger space, which has now become the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters.

“We need more capabilities and more people doing what they’re doing already,” in jobs such as sales, marketing, finance and more, Mr. Rao said.

Twitter is focusing on fast-growing Asian countries like India and Indonesia as it seeks to attract new users and advertising dollars, analysts say. The company, which derives most of its revenue from advertising, is looking for a boost from such emerging markets as user growth levels off in developed markets like the U.S. and the U.K.

Meanwhile, the big story on Friday was that Chief Executive Dick Costolo is stepping down. Here are the first few grafs of my colleague Yoree Koh’s story:

Dick Costolo is stepping down as Twitter Inc.’s chief executive after five years, as Wall Street began losing faith in him and the social-media company’s future growth.

The move puts a spotlight back on co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey, who will serve as interim CEO while he remains chief executive of payments startup Square Inc. Mr. Dorsey was Twitter’s first CEO from May 2007 to October 2008.

Twitter said it would be looking both inside and outside the company for a new chief.

Stay tuned for more.


By Me and a Colleague: A Look at Some Interesting Hong Kong Startups

2015 05 31 hkstartups

Think Hong Kong, and startups might not spring to mind.

But, as my colleague Lorraine Luk and I recently wrote, the city is home to an increasing number of tech companies working in fields like robotics, finance, bio-engineering and more.

Our intro story begins:

Casey Lau, a veteran Hong Kong Internet entrepreneur, in 2009 co-founded a networking group to promote the city’s burgeoning startup community. By 2013, the group, StartupsHK, had attracted 5,000 individual members. Today, just two years later, it has doubled in size to 10,000 people.

Among Hong Kong’s diverse startups are outfits working on artificial intelligence, Internet finance, robotics and more, as a new Wall Street Journal interactive illustrates.

One local company has developed what it says is the world’s most lifelike robots. Another is using biologically engineered fish embryos to detect toxins. And yet another has developed its own artificial intelligence software to buy and sell stocks.

Indeed, a website started by Lau’s group that provides a listing of local tech firms says Hong Kong is now home to more than 300 startups. The number of co-working spaces in the city, where tech workers share office space, has increased from just one in 2009 to 22 last year, one study found. The number of incubators and accelerators, meanwhile, has grown from six to 16 during that time. Hong Kong is also now home to at least one “hackerspace,” Dim Sum Labs, where people gather to tinker with contraptions like 3D printers and microcontrollers.

To be sure, Hong Kong — like most cities striving to become global technology hubs — is not quite Silicon Valley, and young technology firms here face some very real challenges.

Separately, we profiled six interesting startups.

There’s also a slideshow.


By My Colleagues and Me Yesterday: How Air Workers are Using Drones and Crowdsourcing Following the Nepal Earthquake

The story begins:

Relief workers in quake-stricken Nepal say they are using drones and crowdsourced maps offered by volunteer groups as they seek to get emergency supplies to stranded survivors.

Indian and Nepalese authorities are using drones to search areas inaccessible by land, while the American Red Cross is among the agencies providing aid workers with maps that have been updated by thousands of Internet users who examine online satellite imagery and other sources.

S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of India’s National Disaster Response Force, which has deployed hundreds of search-and-rescue personnel to Nepal, said two unmanned aerial vehicles are being used in operations in Katmandu and its outskirts. Purchased from Mumbai-based drone company ideaForge, they are operated by pilots in a Katmandu control room.


By Me Today: How Tech Companies Like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Viber are Helping Connect People Following the Nepal Earthquake

UPDATE: Embedded above and online here: a video I recorded with WSJ Live about the story.

The story begins:

Global technology firms are pitching in on earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal with services such as free calls to and from the country to functions that track survivors and relay the news to worried relatives and friends overseas.

Search giant Google Inc. on Saturday launched its Person Finder service, which allows users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. The feature, which Google created in response to the destructive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, showed it was tracking 5,100 records as of early Monday afternoon Asia time.

Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check, which allows users in areas affected by the earthquake to select a notification alerting friends on the social network that they are OK.

“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote Saturday in a post on his Facebook page, referring to the feature developed last year. “It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.” The post was shared more than 41,000 times and received more than 263,000 likes.


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