GIS Taiwan 2011

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(Shanghai, China) Ping An Insurance – Wow, it’s headquarter is extremely beautiful.

I’d been accepted to the GIS 2011 conference again. I’d attended it during 2009 and meet great friends, and interacted with smarter peers. This year, my entry was among the ten best entries and there was supposed to be additional incentives to the one on paper. Unfortunately, just like last year, scheduling was a thorn to me and I had to forfeit my participation this year. Well, the the participants this year, enjoy the conference and if anyone is thinking of it next year, http://gis-taiwan.ntu.edu.tw/

Also, to let you guys know some of the side projects that I will be up to. First would be to improve my physique. I’m saddened by what I have, or should I put it, lack off and had began building up my body. However, my motivation tends to wane at times and I had to restart repeatedly after pausing a couple days. Hopefully, there will be a new and improved me after a couple of months.

I had also began training myself in the art of Excel and some other software. I am aiming to be just as proficient in these software as those first year investment bank monkeys (oops) by the time I’m done with it.

Young, gifted and blocked

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Korea needs fewer wage slaves and more entrepreneurs

EARLIER this year Humax, a maker of digital set-top boxes based in Seoul, announced that its annual revenues had exceeded 1 trillion won ($865m) for the first time. For South Korea, this is something of a milestone. Humax is a classic start-up, founded in 1989 after a chat between engineering students in a bar. Alas, scandalously few Korean start-ups grow this big.

The Korean economy is dominated by the chaebol, huge conglomerates with tentacles in every stew. The biggest, Samsung, accounts for around a fifth of the country’s exports. Although the chaebol have played a vital role in South Korea’s development, they also suck up credit and obstruct the rise of start-ups. “Everyone knows you don’t compete with the chaebol” is a commonly heard refrain.

Parents of bright young Koreans typically steer them into steady careers in the chaebol, the government or the professions. As in Japan, being a salaryman (or woman) is far more respectable than running one’s own firm. “In Korea, stability is everything,” says one such parent.

Widespread youth unemployment is changing that calculation, however. An impressive 58% of Koreans aged 25-34 have attended university, but 346,000 graduates are currently out of work, up from 268,000 two years ago. Some become entrepreneurs out of necessity: almost 30,000 young South Koreans say they want to launch their own companies, one survey found. And according to the government, the number of “one-man creative enterprises” in the country has risen by 15% in the past year, to 235,000.

Young entrepreneurs often favour tech fields such as social media or gaming, where the only barrier to entry is the power of your imagination. Challenging the chaebol at, say, shipbuilding, might be trickier. The previous wave of young entrepreneurs—a result of the first internet boom, and the unemployment that followed the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis—threw up fizzy firms such as NHN, the operator of Naver (the “Korean Google”), and NCsoft, a maker of multiplayer online role-playing games. Each was once tiny but now belongs to the trillion-won club.

These new entrepreneurs are being joined by a growing band of foreigners, including ethnic Koreans from Western countries. Californian Koreans see no stigma in starting your own business. And they see South Korea, where the economy grew by 6.2% last year, as a land of opportunity compared with sluggish America. The country issues about 35,000 investor visas a year, mostly to small-scale entrepreneurs. The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Global Centre has recently been swamped by expats seeking to attend its classes on Korean business procedures and regulations.

The city has also launched a “Youth 1,000 CEO Project”, to provide young entrepreneurs with free office space and grants of up to 1m won per month. South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak grumbles that Korea has no Mark Zuckerberg (the baby-faced founder of Facebook).

The problem, though, is not young Koreans, who are both bright and energetic. Nor is it business-throttling regulations: South Korea does better on that score than Japan or Taiwan, says the World Bank. The real obstacle to enterprise is a society that urges its best young minds to aim low.

Source: http://www.economist.com/node/18682342?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/ar/younggiftedandblocked

This article struck a chord with me. It reminded me of a course I took not long ago with Professor Baak. Perhaps, it might be interesting to let the readers know that the topic of the course was about the Korean economy. Professor Baak was likable, enthusiastic about teaching and has a quirk to impart his life knowledge to the listeners in class. Mostly, he would always advised us to find prestigious jobs to secure a stable future. Just like in the article, Professor Baak viewed the world through his cultural lenses: The need for a stable job to provide for the family.

Professor Baak was himself a product of recession, a phd student looking forward to his first job when the Asian Financial crisis struck and he needed to move from his homeland Korea to Japan to secure a teaching position. From there, he moved from a smaller Japanese university to a larger and more prestigious Waseda University. Undeniably, he was influenced the Korean and Japanese culture that securing a job is more important than paving into the unknown.

If he mentioned this to me several years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with him. I am sure my parents would have agreed as well. But since coming to the States, I was amazed by the drive that the culture here has in cultivating independence and freedom. Not surprisingly, I found myself increasingly rejecting the notion that having a cushy comfortable position is the most important goal in life. Over time, I found myself increasingly accepting to the notion of doing what I am passionate about, and not following the mold that others has set aside for me.

Also, I feared for the future that is me when I returned back to Malaysia. The culture back home (or at least my environment) is suffocating where the society dictates that the best minds will seek the highest paying employment. Few ever break the mold and seek out their own ventures. Even in Malaysia, the stigma holds that being a salaryman is more respectable than a business owner. I saw Korean classmates, smart and caliber, heading back to Korea to take entry positions in the chaebols. However, none of them ever mentioned about returning home to start their own enterprise. (The classmates I surveyed are those who are raised in Korea and not the Californian Koreans mentioned in the article.) Not that I condemn seeking positions in these companies, I understand how alluring these positions are especially for entry level grads like me.

When Professor Baak talked about in class, he mentioned previously that he taught a heir of a zaibatsu (Japanese version of the chaebol) whom he has no idea of his background until that student asked for a recommendation letter from him. In class, Professor Baak seemed happy and in awe when talking about the young man, possibly thinking about that man’s bright future who might inherit the helm of the zaibatsu leadership. Yet, I kept on wondering, why didn’t he take pride in dreaming of starting his own zaibatsu instead.

p.s. I’m aware that I might have to eat my words in the future and this post might bite me.

Moving around Shanghai Expo

I’d returned from Shanghai almost a month ago. When I was there, I got the opportunity to visit Shanghai Expo and its famous pavilions. Here are some of the tips I gathered traveling around.

1) When you arrived early in the morning, visit the will-be-crowded area first (ie the European pavilions). If you arrived later, then head to the corporate pavilions cause others will be at the country pavilions.

2) Grab the Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbo passport stamps to earned a fast-pass into Spain pavilion. The lines in the city pavilions are shorter than than the lines for the country pavilions. (Spain pavilion no longer use these stamps as fast pass after I left Shanghai.)

3) Grab an early lunch, and then wait in line for the busy pavilions when others are out having their lunch.

4) Afternoon lines are shorter because its baking hot under the sun.

5) Grab early dinner cause the best time to travel is in the evening when the air is cooler and the crowds are starting to head back home.

6) Best of all, come with a bunch of friends, preferably each with different nationalities. Most foreigners can bring their friends in straight into their own respective country’s pavilion without waiting at all. I entered most of the pavilions this way, without waiting much at all. If you don’t have any friends, make some. Barter with other visitors, if they happened to be resident from other countries, offer to take them into your country’s pavilion in return for them to bring you into theirs. (Doesn’t apply to the China, US or UK pavilions though.)

I really enjoyed my time there in Shanghai Expo. Had great time with great people. My fellow dragons, you know who you are. xoxo.