|Volume 7: No. 74|
The stock markets gave everyone a good scare this week. The one-day dip was related to financial problems in Asian countries rather than to any weakness in the US economy. I can't possibly keep up with that, so you'll have to read it in the newspapers and weekly news magazines. It's reassuring, though, that the electronic services such as Nasdaq and E*Trade didn't entirely collapse under the traffic of a billion shares being traded.
SinaNet (Cupertino, CA) is a 50-person website company that aims to serve the 40M Chinese-speaking people outside of Asia. It offers them news and cultural articles in Chinese, plus merchandise and ads from companies that want to reach the Asian American community. Real-time TV and radio feeds are offered for $40/year. The company was started by three Stanford graduate students in 1995, and now gets 5.6M hits per day. The company's advantage over other foreign-language sites is its text-to-Chinese-graphics technology, developed by founder Jack Hong. Graphic display means that users don't need special operating systems or fonts. SinaNet is leasing the technology to E*Trade and others. (E*Trade is a discount stock broker, and gets a lot of its business from Chinese investors. 85% of SinaNet's users are expatriate Taiwanese, with 30% in CA and another 40% in the US.) SinaNet is hoping to offer online banking and other services soon. [Anne Chen, SJM, 05Oct97, 1E.]
Annalee Saxenian, author of "Silicon Valley: Regional Advantage" (1994), is now studying the extent of Asian entrepreneurship in the Valley and around Boston's Route 128. (The study is sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California.) Regional Advantage was based on data from the 1980s. "The 90s story is about immigrants in Silicon Valley." Immigration selects people who are entrepreneurial, energetic and willing to take risks. But the new immigrants also have ties to Asian economies, and often jet back and forth on business trips. They are being more accepted in management ranks now, especially entrepreneurial management. Silicon Valley tends to be a meritocracy, whereas Route 128 is more conservative, hierarchical, and status conscious. (Hsinchu in Taiwan is much like Silicon Valley, and may succeed for similar reasons.) But even in immigrant-founded companies people tend to hire others like themselves. Chinese tend to cluster in hardware, Indians in software. It's still a meritocracy, but cultural factors dissipate slowly. [SJM, 29Sep97, 1E.]