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Make Innovation Matter

www.jumpstartmag.com

Issue 31

Spring 2021

The Happiness Issue Finding joy in entrepreneurship and life

TECH AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE NBA BUBBLE

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States, Startups, and the Climate Crisis

Blowing the Whistle in America, 2020

Miracle On The Mekong River

India’s Startup Ecosystem is Coming of Age

Five Lessons from China’s Remarkable Post-COVID-19 Rebound

BLOCKCHAIN BALLER

NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie has ambitious plans for the future of fan engagement


A LET T ER FROM OUR C EO A ND ED ITORIAL DIR EC TOR Relena Sei

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or many, 2021 may feel like a continuation of COVID-19-plagued 2020. However, upon closer examination, we can see that the past year brought forth inspiring stories of how individuals and startups have not only come to terms with the challenges of the pandemic, but have overcome them. Teams around the world have learned to pivot, find new business opportunities, and even help those in need.

At Jumpstart, we have not remained idle. Our writers worked around the clock (I even heard complaints of “sleep deprivation”!) to keep readers updated on the newest developments, trends, and how-tos in tech. The rest of our team went into action spearheading programs focused on building and helping the startup community. In these challenging times, the support and assistance of friends and strangers alike can make the difference between success and failure. As such, Jumpstart has launched Greater Bay Angels and C-suite Dragons, both platforms built to connect startups, investors, mentors, corporations, and other startup stakeholders in the ecosystem. Our other initiatives have also continued full steam ahead despite COVID-19. Our fashion, retail, and lifestyle accelerator with azalvo promises to host many excellent startups ready to take their businesses to new heights. We remain committed to

Never Miss A Story

investing into innovation-focused education. In addition to Jumpstart Kids, we have partnered with Cyberport to launch a STEM-focused entrepreneurship class for gifted secondary school students under the auspices of the Education Bureau. Recently, the Jumpstart office has been full of energy, jokes, and laughter. The seeds of optimism have been planted, and that is why I am particularly excited to share this issue with you. With this issue, we want to help you find and hold onto something special – Happiness. This is our opportunity to rediscover the joys and important aspects of being human that we often take for granted. To our readers: thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement. As we begin 2021, the Jumpstart team is ready to step into a brighter future with you. As always, we welcome any feedback and look forward to hearing from you. We wish everyone a happy and healthy Spring.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Relena Sei

FOUNDER / ADVISOR Yana Robbins

EXECUTIVE CHAIRPERSON James Kwan

ADVISORS Joseph Chow, Carman Chan, Shitiz Jain, Leo Ku,

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Relena Sei

Derek Kwik, Jeanne Lim, Prem Samtani

DIGITAL EDITOR Nayantara Bhat

STAFF WRITERS Monika Ghosh, Sharon Lewis, Reethu Ravi

SENIOR EXECUTIVE Cindy Chan

SPECIAL THANKS Janica Bergas, Bobo Chan, Jerry Cheuk,

PARTNERSHIP AND MARKETING MANAGER Jeff Hui

Alex Poon, Iris Wen, Lexy Zhang, Adrian Yu, Sandeep Pandey

DESIGN AND MARKETING ASSOCIATE Jurgen Sula

COVER PHOTOGRAPHY Spencer Dinwiddie

Copyright © 2021 Jumpstart Media Ltd. The contents of the magazine are fully protected by copyright and nothing may be reprinted without permission. The publisher and editors accept no responsibility in respect to any products, goods or services that may be advertised or referred to in this issue or for any errors, omissions, or mistakes in any such advertisements or references. The mention of any specific companies or products in articles or advertisements does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by this magazine or its publisher in preference to others of a similar nature which are not mentioned or advertised. Published articles do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Jumpstart Magazine. Spring 2021

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SPRING 202 1

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50 Cover Story

Nothing But Network Basketball star Spencer Dinwiddie has ambitious plans for the future of fan engagement.

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TR END S

T RE N D S

CU LT U RE A N D S O CI E T Y

Keeping Your Head in the Game

Neutrality in the Echo Chamber

Tackling the Gender Wage Gap in Tech

Professional sports in the age of COVID-19

Wikipedia’s role in a fragmented and confusing information landscape

Examining the layers of bias and history that perpetuate unequal pay structures Spring 2021

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FEATURES

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E CO SYS T E MS

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India’s Startup Ecosystem is Coming of Age India’s startup ecosystem is ushering in a new dawn T RE N D S

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Big Tech, Big Data, and Bigger Problems “Facebook doesn’t have customers, it has hostages.” – Cindy Cohn T RE N D S

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Blowing the Whistle in America, 2020 Thanks to technology and social media, calling out misbehavior and misconduct has never been easier T RE N D S

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States, Startups, and the Climate Crisis Climate action demands coaction between administrators and innovators F O U N D E R S T O RI E S

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Mind Over Matter Singaporean startup Mind Palace uses VR for reminiscence therapy, helping dementia patients enjoy a little escapism CU LT U RE A N D S O CI E T Y

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Meaning and Wellbeing in Troubled Times

By LEANNE LAM

Taboo Technology Breaking the barriers that hold bodies back P58

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Boundaries can be your best friends – use them to keep your mental health strong Putting Professional Medical Technology to Civil Use

By ROY YU & JACKY NG

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What it takes to make industry-grade technology accessible to ordinary consumers CONVERSATION STARTERS

How Technology Impacts our Happiness Findings on how technology affects our wellbeing

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Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

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LIFESTYLE

FYI - For Your Innovation by ARK Invest Podcast review

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Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein Book Review

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EVENT REVIEW

Cyberport Venture Capital Forum 2020 Cyberport is a quasi-governmental tech innovation organization from Hong Kong which organizes the annual Cyberport Venture Capital Forum

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CONTRIBUTORS

JANICA BERGAS

N AYA N TA R A B H AT

S T E V E C E R VA N T E S

BOBO CHAN

Janica is an Editorial Assistant at Jumpstart. She graduated with an honors degree in Global Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. When she’s not cooped up writing about tech and startup ecosystems, she’s probably wandering around Hong Kong looking for the tallest mountain to hike. janica@jumpstartmag.com Read her review on page 89.

Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Digital Editor. She is passionate about gender equality and good food, and loves to read and write about new and unusual applications of technology. She has lived in India, Indonesia, and New Zealand before moving to Hong Kong. nayantara@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 50.

Steve is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Trade at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. He has held several media and think-tank positions throughout Asia. He is highly active in the South Korean media scene, and often shares his expertise. ucla6767@gmail.com Read his feature on page 39.

Bobo is an Editorial Assistant at Jumpstart. She is second-year student of English Studies and Language and Communication at the University of Hong Kong. Bobo enjoys writing about gender equality, mental health, and internet culture. She loves to sing and listen to true crime podcasts. bobo@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 84.

C I N DY C H A N

JERRY CHEUK

S A N J AY E N I S H E T T Y

ASHLEY GALINA

Cindy is Jumpstart’s Senior Executive, handling partnerships, events, and day-to-day operations. She has been in the media industry for several years and has worked at China Daily and Time Inc. Cindy is passionate about music and has a diploma in piano performance. cindy@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 26.

Jerry is Jumpstart’s Project Coordinator. He is passionate about basketball, cars, traveling, and psychology. He loves visiting national parks and reading books about clinical and abnormal psychology. His background in psychology equips him to use the knowledge of human behavior in daily life. jerry@jumpstartmag.com Read his review on page 89.

Sanjay is an entrepreneur and one of the most prominent faces in India’s startup arena. A major contributor to the startup ecosystem, Sanjay is currently the MD & CEO at 50K Ventures, a platform that nurtures early stage startups right from the beginning. 50kventures.com Read his feature on page 36.

Ashley is a renowned China marketing expert, entrepreneur, speaker, vlogger and bestselling author. She was recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Marketing in 2019 and an Asia-Pacific Top 25 Innovator. She is the founder of two China-focused digital marketing companies: Alarice and ChoZan. chozan.com Read her feature on page 22.

MONIK A GHOSH

BRIAN KENG

A L E X L AU

SHARON LEWIS

Monika is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart. She is an avid reader fascinated by Classic English literature and enjoys painting and cooking. She loves to write about technological advancements, especially AI, cryptocurrencies and spacetech. monika@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 70.

Brian is a car enthusiast and CEO of Enovate Motors Philippines, which focuses on innovative technology that affects the future of travel. Brian is also the CEO of Century Peak Energy corporation, and VP of Century Peak Holdings. brian.keng@centurypeakholdings.com Read his feature on page 58.

Alex Lau is an entrepreneur and founder of AiiO Limited, an audio company and PicFetch, a picture App. Alex has also been in private wealth management for 8 years, specialising in serving high net worth clients and family offices. alex@aiiogroup.com Read his feature on page 34.

Sharon is a Staff Writter at Jumpstart. She is passionate about sustainability and social justice, and is fascinated by the new media landscape. Sharon is a Teach For India alumna, and continues working on micro-projects with her school community. sharon.lewis@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 44.

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CONTRIBUTORS

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ALEX POON

R E E T H U R AV I

CHRIS SHEI

EL AINE SHIU

Alex is Jumpstart’s Project Coordinator. He is currently a second-year law student at the University of Birmingham. He is passionate about criminal law and planning to become a barrister in the future. He loves basketball and is a big fan of the NBA. alex@jumpstartmag.com Read his feature on page 20.

Reethu is a staff writer at Jumpstart. She is passionate about sustainability, gender equality, and good movies. She loves reading and is mostly found between the pages of a book. A naval architect-turned journalist, she loves bringing stories of change and innovation to the limelight. reethu@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 74.

Chris is an entrepreneur who enjoys hacking projects, and exploring new technologies and their real world applications. Chris is well-versed in blockchain and AI/ML. Chris held roles at Two Sigma Ventures, Jet.com, and Near Protocol. shei.christopher@gmail.com Read his feature on page 25.

Elaine is a serial entrepreneur in fashion jewelry, traveltech, and innovation. She has received many awards, including Hong Kong Outstanding Young Entrepreneur and the Asia Pacific Entrepreneur Award. She encourages youth development and women’s empowerment through public speaking and lectures. Instagram: @elaineeeeee Read her feature on page 63.

Want to write for Jumpstart? A N D R E W VA N H A S S E LT

IRIS WEN

Professor Andrew Van Hasselt is involved in the entire spectrum of hearing restoration during his 30+ year career at CUHK. Pioneering surgical techniques and alleviating deafness in new-borns through to the elderly has gifted Andrew with a deep understanding of human hearing and communication. andrewvh@aiiogroup.com Read his feature on page 34.

Iris is an Editorial Assistant at Jumpstart. She is a penultimate year law student at the University of Hong Kong. She is interested in the intersection of law, politics, and technological changes. She is also a documentaryenthusiast. iris@jumpstartmag.com Read her feature on page 26.

We are always looking to work with talented writers to contribute or join our Journalist in Residence program. ADRIAN YU

LEXY ZHANG

Adrian is a Design Intern at Jumpstart. He is a final year psychology student at the University of Hong Kong. Passionated in art and design, he loves to capture aesthetics in the society, especially through his pen. He is also enthusiastic about music and cooking. adrian@jumpstartmag.com See his artwork on page 21.

Lexy is a Marketing Intern at Jumpstart. She has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting & Finance and a master’s degree in marketing from The University of Hong Kong. She has working experience across various sectors in the financial industry. Lexy is passionate about music, movies, and food. lexy@jumpstartmag.com Read her review on page 93.

Get in touch with us at [editors@jumpstartmag.com] to learn more. Please include at least one writing sample in your email. We look forward to hearing from you.

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GUEST COLUMNS

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An Actor’s Advice: Staying Authentic and Overcoming Zoom Anxieties Zoom me (zoom me) on the line, Zoom me, zoom me any, anytime. By CRYSTAL YU

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uck! I hate it. It is just so impersonal and unnatural!” a close friend of mine exclaimed when asked how she feels about all the Zoom meetings and auditions since COVID19 began. “I stood in my living room and stared at my laptop for 45 minutes because the production team was running behind,” she continued. “Then without any notice, there they were, all 15 of them on my screen! I was so caught off guard!” My friend is not alone in her feelings. I find it equally anxiety-inducing. The sheer amount of time required to set up the ‘meeting room,’ for one: good lighting (I use two LED panel lights on separate stands to get even coverage), setting my iPad or laptop on a stand at eye level, and removing any distractions from the wall behind me. Then, there’s checking to make sure the link works, checking to make sure the Internet works… the list goes on! And after all that, there’s the nagging worry of how to be authentic and establish a genuine connection with the other person when I am reduced to a pixelated floating bust on their screen. “So much that is communicated in person is not tangible,” counselor and psychotherapist Alan Bordeville explains. “Pheromones, energy, body language, subtle expressions, and we take all that in whether we realize it consciously or not.” I recently had a ‘chemistry read’ on Zoom with a fellow actor and I could not help but wonder, what chemistry? I could not feel his presence or touch him. There were four other executives lurking on call, scrutinizing our so-called chemistry. While we worked well together (I was later offered the role), I felt it was not because we had wowed the ‘room’ with a spine-tingling romantic connection, but rather because we were both seasoned professionals. However, being at home has been helpful in some ways. Speaking from experience with clients, Bordeville says that the comfort of being at home helps people “access the deeper emotions that they might not be able to access if they had taken a trip to [his] office.” So perhaps, I should give myself (and Zoom) a little more credit. Yes, Zoom meetings, auditions and chemistry reads are awkward and scary, but conversely, offered some benefits. I was not worried about running late, I did not have to wait in reception with other actors who were going up for the same role, and I did not have to attempt to reapply make-up in someone else’s bathroom. I was prepared and in control of my environment, and that was quite empowering.

Crystal Yu auditions for a role pre-COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Crystal Yu. For anyone else who finds video conferencing challenging, WeAudition CEO and Co-founder Darren Darnborough has some suggestions. “Don’t fight it,” he says. “One of the ways to reduce anxiety is to be prepared for all eventualities: know your lines, know your script, understand your set-up, have good quality equipment and a stable Internet connection’.

What else can we do to reduce video-conferencing associated anxieties?

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ordeville suggests that turning off the notifications on your devices prior to a meeting can help you stay focused. “Get out and move your body–we are built to move and not sit in front of the computer all day!” he adds. “And deep breaths. Inhales for a count of six and exhales for six can help reduce cortisol levels in the body.” So, what do I do if I get anxious again before my next Zoom meeting? Don’t fight it. Take deep breaths. Be prepared and find ways of reducing stress, such as dancing to Blondie and turning off my phone. Most of all, I’ll remember that I’m in my element– empowered and professional, auditioning from the comfort of my own house.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Crystal is an actor, filmmaker, educator and is best known for her role as Dr Lily Chao in the BBC BAFTA award-winning medical drama Casualty. She is currently filming a Neil Gaiman project for Netflix, and featured in AMC’s Soulmates and HBO’s Industry. Her directorial debut, ‘Are You Sleeping?’ was nominated for Best Director Short film at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival. Crystal is a finalist for the 2020 Asian Women of Achievement Awards. crystal-yu.com

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Technology for Change Week Asia March 8th–12th 2021

Harnessing the power of technology for the social good How are 70+ industry leaders applying technology for the social good? Join us online at Technology for Change Week Asia for a thoughtprovoking discussion with experts including:

Audrey Tang

Dan Neary

Mario Knoepfel

Digital minister Taiwan

Vice-president, Asia Pacific Facebook

Head, sustainable investing advisory, Asia-Pacific UBS Global Wealth Management

Atsuko Okuda

David Yeung

Jennifer Zhu Scott

Regional director Asia International Telecommunication Union, United Nations

Founder and chief executive Green Monday Group

Executive chairman The Commons Project

Register free techforchange.economist.com

Silver sponsors

Supporting organisations


GUEST COLUMNS

Meaning and Wellbeing in Troubled Times Boundaries can be your best friends – use them to keep your mental health strong. By LEANNE LAM

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time for work. What time you wrap up work doesn’t matter, and is completely up to you, but it needs to stop at some point every day. I am sure as business owners or an engaged couple planning a wedding, you always feel like you are missing something. I still remember the days and months when I could not sleep, constantly getting up to amend my documents and create mind maps. In the morning, I would still be anxious and worry about whether I did enough. After a lot of tiring and emotionally difficult days, I realized the importance of creating boundaries and designating rest time for yourself. This has become increasingly important since we started working from home and the line between work and rest blurred even more. For those of you who prioritize productivity like me, be sure to carve out time to rest your minds and eyelids, even for just ten minutes. You will be more clear-headed afterward. While ‘rest time’ is certainly essential to wellbeing, so is ‘me time.’ Other than creating healthy boundaries in your workspace, it is also crucial to communicate your schedule and your need for personal time to your friends and family. As an entrepreneur, I am constantly around people. Full days can pass with back-to-back client meetings and plans with friends after work. Everyone enjoys good company and new experiences, but we often forget to take time to be with ourselves and cultivate some inner peace. I used to think that being with friends and family on the weekends equals resting, but after weeks of nonstop meeting people, I realized I was exhausted and mentally worn out. Time alone to rest our minds is when we truly get inspired, create, and reflect. It is your responsibility to your health to communicate the boundaries you want others to respect. There will always be people who do not understand your needs, but your friends and family who care about you, and any colleagues who value productivity, will know how important this is. It’s truly admirable that we are all working our hardest and still crunching numbers in this collectively stressful time. While our ability to grind in spite of challenges is extraordinary, it’s important that we don’t forget that health is our greatest asset. After all, how can we continue to inspire and create if we have burned through our sense of wellbeing? The best course of action in this uncertain era is setting workplace and personal boundaries, making time to care for yourself, and prioritizing your wellbeing. In the long run, your body and mind will thank you for it.

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he past year has been filled with ups and downs, uncertainties, and changes for all of us. From travel bans, to setting up home offices, to adjusting to a masked way of life, there were a lot of stressful adaptations to make. Have we stayed sane the whole time? Probably not, but we managed to get through it. Creating healthy boundaries was most essential to my sanity. With everything happening online now, work never seems to end. Clients and colleagues expect you to reply to them whenever you touch your phone. Annual leaves just became more days of working from home. Since I am in the events industry and wedding planning is one of our specialties, I know the pressure of planning a once-in-alifetime event can be huge on both the planner and the client. Most of our clients have nine-to-five desk jobs, so they are only free to meet after usual working hours. It is important to prioritize clients’ schedules, but it is also important to set a start and end

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leanne founded Le Lumière Events four years ago in Hong Kong with the mission to create ever-lasting moments through exquisite events and impeccable event management. She specializes in creating customized decorations and personalized experiences and has since expanded into London and Shanghai. Leanne also advocates for youth and female empowerment. Her new podcast, Beyond the Label, promotes self-love and self-worth. lelumiereevents.com

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GUEST COLUMNS

With Technology, Options Abound Innovation and the importance of choice By YEE LING CHANG

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ertility and reproductive health tend to be an afterthought for most individuals assigned female at birth. While today’s technologies for fertility and reproduction promise a high rate of success, many turn to them only as a last recourse when nothing else has worked. This is perhaps why there’s little public interest in the topic at present, but things could soon be changing. The fertility business is today estimated to be a US$25 billion industry, projected to reach $41 billion by 2026. This represents a CAGR of 9.25%, largely brought about by changing lifestyles. Couples are putting careers first, starting families later, and the infertility rate is on the rise. As a result of the demand, both longestablished clinics and new ventures are seizing the moment to pioneer new business strategies. From hardware and diagnostics to community-driven fertility tracking apps, the startup space is burgeoning with new companies addressing everything from egg freezing to fertility testing and pregnancy planning. On the topic of personal fertility management and reproductive health, we recently interviewed Wan Tseng, Brand Manager of Taipei Fertility Center. Wan shared her thoughts on how progressive Taiwan is regarding fertility management and reproductive health, approaching it with a comprehensive blend of Western and Eastern medicine. Coupled with Taiwan’s top-quality healthcare system, the country sees the highest success rates for in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Asia. The discussion goes beyond just egg freezing and IVF; Taipei Fertility Center believes in its responsibility to society. Thus, educating women through different stages of their reproductive health is also a priority. TFC encourages all women to plan ahead and think about their reproductive health and fertility from their early 20s, starting with how overall wellness and a healthy diet can regulate the aging process of one’s ovaries and eggs.

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An ultrasound room at Taipei Fertility Center. Photo courtesy of Taipei Fertility Center. If anyone with female reproductive organs should choose to have a child now or later, their 30s would be a good time to map out options based on their career, their choices, their body, and whether they want to have a partner or not. Crucially– and this is why such developments are important–options like egg freezing open up the possibilities of when, how, and with whom to have a child. Apart from conducting regular talks to educate and raise awareness, TFC also wants to use branding to change the perception of fertility treatments. TFC’s clinic does not feel sterile–the space looks more like a bookstore or a hotel lobby, and the consultation rooms like a spa. The customer journey was designed with the goal of making clients feel comfortable and calm, and communicating the fact that fertility management need not be a last resort, but rather a personal life choice. Although procedures like egg freezing and IVF have become more accessible today, they still come with risks. Every individual will experience it differently; thus, talking to and learning from others who have been through the process can be invaluable. The community aspect and need for social and emotional support cannot be ignored. Acknowledging this, there are startups in this space focused on education and community such as FertilityIQ and Opionato, helping people who are considering or in the process of egg freezing and IVF fill in knowledge gaps and find support.

Above all, having children is a deeply personal choice and should not be a distant dream for anyone who wants to start a family, no matter their background, age, or gender assignation. Advancements in fertility technology–beyond egg freezing and IVF–and resources for education and awareness are making it possible for women from across the gender spectrum to have biological children. At the end of the day, biology and time certainly present many obstacles, some of which can’t be outmaneuvered. However, through being resourceful and having realistic expectations, we now have the opportunity to at least try, and that is definitely something to embrace.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yee Ling is Content Director at CAREhER, the only bilingual platform that takes a comprehensive approach to personal and professional development for women. CAREhER offers resources for learning, such as podcasts interviews with women business leaders, and organizes online and offline events. careher.net


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other things, helped to find the grounding and balance that is so important in life.

Why happiness makes you successful – and not the other way around

C Does Success Make Us Happy? Or does happiness make us successful? By MIKE FLACHE

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feel so incredibly empty, even though our company has developed extremely well economically in 2020,” my friend David said during our mandatory New Year’s phone call. David is both a friend and business partner, the CEO of a cybersecurity solutions company. Its products and services are used all over the world. From an economic point of view, things have only gone up for his company, and for him personally in the last five years. One sales record broke the other. But while his company’s KPIs went up, his mental wellbeing went in the opposite direction. David is often tired, irritable, and no longer enjoys what he is doing– even though his company is flourishing, which should be a huge motivational boost for him. Why is this not the case?

What happiness means to us

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f we take a look at two Harvard longterm studies–the Grant Study and the Glueck Study–it becomes clear that economic success and money alone do not bring fulfillment. The two long-term studies began tackling the question of what makes people happy more than 75 years ago. Beginning in the 1930s, researchers followed 268 Harvard graduates (Grant Study) and 456

men from lower-income neighborhoods of Boston (Glueck Study), regularly asking them about their physical and emotional well-being. Those who are still alive today are now 90-years-old. Some of them are still in contact with the researchers. Long-term studies like the one above are rare. They provide insights that are usually difficult to obtain. After years of intense research, scientists have concluded that our greatest happiness comes from our relationships.

What the path to happiness can look like

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have experienced firsthand how unfulfilling economic success is on its own. In 2004, I survived the Indian Ocean tsunami, an event that shaped my life forever. At that time, my life was almost entirely about business. Everything was going well, but at the age of 30, I felt the same emptiness that David told me about during our New Year’s phone call in 2020. After the tsunami experience, this emptiness increased. For a long time, I asked myself why I had survived this catastrophe and why so many other people had to lose their lives. But eventually, the answer came to me like something out of a book: I still had a job to do. I took the situation as an opportunity to give my life a new direction–to share the opportunities that come to me with other people. That’s why I decided to expand my entrepreneurial activities to include social projects and sustainability projects. Since then, I have supported various good causes and organizations. One of my priorities is to help these initiatives make a bigger impact by using digital technologies. To this day, I have never regretted my decision. Making this choice has, among

oming back to the New Year’s phone call with David, at the end of our conversation, he asked me how to tackle this challenge. My first piece of advice to him was to ‘rethink.’ Happiness researcher Shawn Achor found that we can be much more successful when we are happy. According to Achor, the brain is 31% more productive in a positive state. Rethinking primarily looks at redefining success: never focus on the economic perspective alone, especially not materially. Instead, from time to time, honestly and holistically ask yourself whether what you do leads you to a fulfilled life. Based on my life experience, this is possible with the triple-A approach: ATTITUDE: Accept your challenges and take responsibility for them. ADAPTATION: Create your new vision and craft your roadmap. ACTION: Invest in yourself and transform your life. I strongly believe that it is important to step out of your comfort zone, to challenge yourself, and thereby grow. Whether for David personally or in general, balancing meaning and a sustainable purpose are becoming more and more essential to creating a passionate and fulfilling life–especially in times of crisis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike is an entrepreneur, business angel, and philanthropist. Together with talented teams, he builds and transforms digital businesses worldwide. Mike also advises the CEOs of some of the world’s most renowned organizations. The analysts of Onalytica voted him as one of the Top-10 global thought leaders in digital transformation. mikeflache.com

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GUEST COLUMNS

Injecting Creativity into the Legal Profession Marketing and branding, and why they’re important to the legal industry. By OLIVIA KUNG

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or most businesses across different sectors, especially those involved in the production of goods, marketing and creativity are considered a must. But these two functions can become challenging for businesses in the service sector, particularly for the legal industry. In the legal space, there are many reasons why law firms often choose not to market. Some legal practitioners take the view that marketing is an expensive exercise, and it takes too long to build up a brand. Some take the view that it is difficult to assess or quantify the effect and impact of marketing. Others feel that the legal industry is a conservative profession and should rely purely on word of mouth. There are also quite a few restrictions imposed by the Law Society of Hong Kong on marketing, including one that prohibits law firms from claiming that the practice is an expert in any field, or in general. In order to avoid getting into any potential trouble, some legal practitioners choose to avoid marketing completely. Finally, many of Hong Kong’s law firms are SMEs themselves, and feel that they don’t have the time to engage in mar-

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keting. But as the Co-founding Partner of an SME law firm and having practiced law in both the U.K. and Hong Kong, I think it’s worth it. Here are some tips that I have found useful: • Branding is the key to success: More than just a logo, branding is a package which encompasses the decor of the office, website design, online and offline marketing materials, and even the culture of the firm. Every step from deciding on the brand color, to the style of posts on online platforms, needs to consistently convey the same business values. • Think out of the box: For marketing purposes, following the crowd is perhaps the easiest and safest bet, but the impact is likely to be minimal. It is important to be alert to market sentiment and current events and choose the direction of your marketing accordingly. • Your website is a display window: A company website has become a basic requirement for businesses, and law firms should not be an exception. A website allows viewers to gain a better understanding of the firm and the services they

offer. For lots of people, that may be the first contact they have with the firm, and the first impression that it gives them will be vital for any future interaction. • Using social media: This is a good way to communicate with existing or potential clients. Factors like what to write in a post and how often to post need to be carefully considered, as they can attract or deter viewers. I realized the value of marketing when sitting with my co-founders and trying to name our law firm. Rather than follow the crowd and use the founding partners’ surnames to form the name of the firm, we chose one of our founding partners’ first names and added the world ‘Legal’. We believe the name of the business is important for marketing purposes, and we are glad that we made this decision, having received lots of positive comments on the name of our firm. The common adage, “If you never try, you’ll never know,” is appropriate here. Legal marketing may not be as straightforward as marketing in other sectors, as law firms are subject to restrictions. However, there are still lots of ways to do legal marketing that comply with the regulations and achieve the desired results. It may take more time and thought to build up, but in the long run, I believe it is both beneficial and worthwhile to business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivia is a Co-founding Partner of Wellington Legal. She is an experienced litigation solicitor who has worked in the U.K. and Hong Kong. Olivia is a Fellow member of Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators and appointed as an Arbitrator of Guangzhou Arbitration Commission. She is also a contributing editor of LexisNexis Advance Practical Guidance. Since 2018, she has been an Adjunct Professor of Beijing Normal University and is the current Chair of Women Business Lawyers Committee of Inter Pacific Bar Association. olivia.kung@wellingtonlegal.com.hk


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GUEST COLUMNS

Putting Professional Medical Technology to Civil Use What it takes to make industry-grade technology accessible to ordinary consumers By ROY YU & JACKY NG

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ontinuous waves of COVID19 infections have continued to ravage the globe. As of the time of writing, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached over 100 million globally. Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers have been struggling to identify the risks and the nature of the virus. Some, for instance, looked at how long the virus sticks to surfaces and materials. The results of one such study suggested that the survival time of COVID-19 is fairly lengthy, seeing as it can live on steel or plastic for up to three days. Given this information, there’s plenty to suggest that the continuous increases in cases are linked to the expanding surface area of things we regularly touch and interact with, which may previously have been exposed to infected people. At the beginning of the epidemic, anti-epidemic disinfection products such

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When putting medical technology to civil use, we must add innovation and creativity, simplify its usage, and reduce its risk.

as alcohol, antiseptic solutions, and masks quickly became necessities, and some localities even experienced shortages in these goods. As the pandemic continues without an end in sight, the general public is sure to have higher requirements for disinfecting products. In short, to satisfy market demand, a more reliable and professional medical

technology for the prevention of COVID19 is needed. In terms of disinfection products, those that are medical-grade are certainly the most reliable. However, medical-grade products often require professional supervision for use, and can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Rashly putting medical technology to civil use may be counterproductive, bringing additional and unnecessary harm to consumers. Therefore, when putting medical technology to civil use, we must add innovation and creativity, simplify its usage, and reduce its risk. For instance, UVC disinfection technology has been used in hospitals for more than 40 years and has been recognized as a safe disinfectant for air, water, and surfaces. However, the potency of UVC and its strong penetration ability makes it hazardous for use on eyes and skin. Using it requires professional equipment and train-


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Consumer medical products must be easy to use, practical, and fit into consumers’ lifestyles. The end goal is for consumers to be able to use the products without the guidance of professionals, and with fewer keys or buttons.

ing, consequently limiting its use to medical-grade disinfection. Some companies have worked out innovative solutions to this conundrum. Take, for instance, light bulb manufacturer and supplier LightSources. In the pandemic’s early days, the company developed a UVC germicidal lamp for civil use that could purportedly kill the novel coronavirus. Developers addressed safety concerns first, by adding a motion sensor to the product. With this addition, the lamp became capable of shutting down automatically upon sensing movement in the surrounding area. This cut down the risk of UVC irradiation. Developers also kept in mind that they were catering to the consumer market. They made the product easier to use by adding a voice reminder function, and an option to pre-set a daily disinfection time. Naturally, given the demand, competition in the market is getting fiercer. Brand name carries huge weight in the consumer medical market–when it comes to life and

health, consumers are much more likely to go for reputable companies and products. Hence, brand building is especially important for companies targeting the consumer medical market.

Research data is also a significant selling point. Scientific research from notable universities and laboratories is likely to boost buying decisions. Further, the product’s value proposition also matters. Consumer medical products must be easy to use, practical, and fit into consumers’ lifestyles. The end goal is for consumers to be able to use the products without the guidance of professionals, and with fewer keys or buttons. COVID-19 has changed the world. It has also changed the speed-to-market for solutions. This is especially true for critical industries, including healthcare. In this context, adapting professional medical technology for consumers not only empowers them, but also promotes a healthier and safer lifestyle to the public.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roy is an entrepreneur and subject matter expert on business strategy and pivoting. Roy is a business consultant for Skya Link Limited, Co-founder of 3S Global Foods Limited, and has held leadership positions at HK Unilever Co., Ltd., Carlsberg HK Co., Ltd. and San Miguel Brewery HK Co., Ltd. roy.yu@skyalink.com

Jacky is the Co-founder and CEO of Skya Link Limited, which has been trusted as the sole distributor of Philips UVC lamps, HUE and Lighting across Hong Kong and Macau. Jacky has over two decades of experience in FMCG and consumer goods generally. jacky.ng@skyalink.com

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GUEST COLUMNS

Finding Meaning in Suffering Bearing witness to distress and taking action against inequity for a better tomorrow By SANDEEP RAI

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e are in the middle of a wellbeing movement. The global wellness industry was valued at US$4.5 trillion in 2018 (Global Wellness Institute) and is one of the decade’s fastest growing industries. Underlying this unprecedented growth is the discovery that we, as individuals, are more than human resources; we are whole beings who need care. We are simultaneously entering an era where meaning and purpose are paramount. According to one prominent survey, 94% of millennials want to utilize their skills to benefit a cause. 63% believe that the primary purpose of a company should be to improve society, rather than to generate profits (Deloitte). Young people are searching for ways to make the world a better place. Underlying it all is the recognition that we live in an interconnected world; that my happiness and liberation depends on my neighbor being happy and free, too. And yet, we are continuing to witness levels of suffering and poverty that are unparalleled. We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has killed 1.7 million people (a number that will be outdated by the time this article is published). It’s a global crisis, accompanied by school closures, employment losses, and painful economic cuts that will likely push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021 (World Bank). It’s come on the heels of the #MeToo movement, a plethora of civil rights uprisings, and increasingly dire predictions of climate change. We want to take care of ourselves. We want meaning. And yet we feel helpless. How do we reconcile three seemingly disparate and contradictory realities? It’s a question that I’ve struggled to answer. I work with an organization that employs 1250 of the most passionate, committed, and inspiring young people I’ve ever met. They are people whose primary purpose is to build a better tomorrow. And yet, over the last twelve 18

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months, we have seen inequity rise. We have watched families going hungry. Children getting married. Teenagers taking their own lives. Adults dying from preventable illnesses. School closures forcing future generations into poverty. The answer, I believe, is neither intuitive nor simple: we have to lean into suffering. We have to choose to be proximate. We have to repeatedly prioritize plight and injustice over individual comfort. We must bear witness to the suffering of our less-privileged neighbors. Bearing witness goes beyond social media and one-page articles (including this one). Choosing proximity demands that we choose to act; that we choose to be perpetually uncomfortable. Tarun Cherukuri was 24-years-old when he walked away from a well-paying job at Hindustan Lever. He wanted to build a better India, but he felt helpless when faced with the scope of the situation: hundreds of millions of Indians living in poverty. Tarun decided to start by teaching. Today, he runs an organization, Indus Action, that’s ensuring hundreds of thousands of Indian children can access high-quality schools. As organizations across the world shut their doors during COVID-19, Tarun made a courageous decision: if low-income households and government officials couldn’t evade the pandemic, neither could he. They would invest in the PPE, medical insurance, and testing needed to stay safe. They would plan an abundance of precautions. But they wouldn’t abandon communities. This year, we have watched individuals

and organizations choose to be courageous. They’re the doctors and nurses who choose to show up. They’re the teachers who are leveraging technology and community immersions to keep kids learning. The relief workers. The government officials. The firefighters. These are all leaders who are choosing to be witnesses, even when they feel scared and helpless. My hope, as we all enter 2021, is that we choose to be proximate to suffering. It’s a decision that not only demands courage and sacrifice, but also one that I admittedly struggled with–for months–to make and personally deliver. However, it is a decision that has the power to be transformative. And, in the end, it may be our only path to a world filled with more care, more meaning, and less suffering.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandeep helped start Teach For India in 2008 after teaching secondary science in Washington, D.C., as a Teach For America Corps Member and as a fundraising consultant with Ashoka. He is now Chief of City Operations at Teach For India. Sandeep has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and Economic Policy from Columbia University and a Masters in Secondary Teaching and Education from American University. teachforindia.org


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CONVERSATION STARTERS

How TECHNOLOGY Impacts our HAPPINESS

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nternet penetration has increased tremendously in recent years, especially during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. But alongside increased Internet usage, criticisms have arisen, and one of the major concerns is how over-using technology may impact our mental health and happiness. Technology is arguably helping people to sustain close relationships: 74% of adults online say the Internet has played a positive role in their marriage (Happify), and 67% of Internet users say online communication with family and friends has generally strengthened their relationships (Happify). However, cyberbullying derived from online social media is a serious, and growing issue. Cyberbullying has strong negative effects on young people. One study found that 87% of young people have seen cyberbullying occur online, and 41% of people who have been cyberbullied have developed social anxiety (Broadband Search). This shows the flip side of the coin: how improper use of the Internet may lead to undesirable outcomes.

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In the workplace, the effects of constantly being in communication for work-related reasons has also taken a toll on adults. Being able to work from anywhere at any time makes it harder for employees to detach from work, leading to results like lack of sleep or even mild depression (Houston Chronicle). Technological development has certainly brought beneficial changes to our lives, and by utilizing it properly, we are sure to see growth. However, the pandemic has made clear the need to implement preventative measures to counter issues like cyberbullying, and build healthier online habits. -AP


CONVERSATION STARTERS

Did You Know?

Technology’s Negative Side

Technology and Happiness

DARK ORIGINS

38% OF USERS

56% OF USERS

The term ‘robot’ has dark origins: it’s derived from the Czech word ‘robota,’ which translates to ‘forced labor.’ (Science Friday)

38% of Internet users are less likely to rely exclusively on their spouses or partners as discussion confidantes. (Pew Research Center)

56% of Internet users say they have seen an online group come together to help a person or a community feel better or solve a problem. (Happify)

10% SLOWER

25% OF USERS

74% OF ADULTS

On average, people read 10% slower from a screen than from paper. (NBC News)

25% say they have been treated unkindly or been attacked. (Pew Research Center)

6.6 BILLION

64% OF EMPLYEES

More people in the world have cell phones (6.6 billion) than working toilets (4.5 billion). (United Nations)

64% of employees reported visiting non-work related websites on the job, potentially impacting productivity. (salary.com)

2.7 BILLION

There are over 2.7 billion mobile gamers worldwide. (Statista)

8% OF GLOBAL CURRENCY

Only 8% of global currency consists of physical money. The rest is stored digitally. (The Times Of India)

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74% of adults online say the Internet has had a positive impact on their marriage. (Happify)

39% OF COUPLES

39% of heterosexual couples in 2017 reported meeting their partner online, compared to 22% in 2009. (Stanford News)

90% OF USERS

90% of online users say the Internet has been a good thing for them personally. (Happify)

US$159.3 BILLION

Gamers were estimated to spend US$159.3 billion on games in 2020. (Newzoo)

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FEATURES STARTUP TOOLKIT

Five Lessons from China’s Remarkable Post-COVID-19 Rebound By ASHLEY GALINA DUDARENOK

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hina was one of the first countries to contain the COVID-19 epidemic with relative success, and the economy is better for it. The National Statistics Bureau reported 4.9% growth in China’s Q3 GDP year-on-year, showing improvement against both its 3.2% growth in Q2, and 6.8% Q1 decline. This impressive rebound has earned China the title of the only major economy likely to advance in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The results stand in sharp contrast to most of the world’s nations, which are struggling to juggle pandemic control and economic growth.

The five foundations that made China’s impressive rebound possible 1. Controlling the spread

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he Chinese government saw controlling the spread of the virus as its utmost priority. While there were initial oversights and misjudgments in the early days of the pandemic, authorities soon implemented strict controls and preventive measures to contain it. The initial clamp down on the spread of the pandemic ultimately made the economic rebound possible.

2. Coming together

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strong sense of unity in society helped to rebuild and reinforce China’s domestic business ecosystem. The central government created a conducive environment by lowering taxes and offering subsidies to certain industries. Industries started adopting policies such as employee sharing schemes to provide more employment opportunities, and local communities and Internet giants alike donated supplies and money to pandemic relief. Consumers were motivated to support local businesses with government-issued coupons, a trend which lasted post-pandemic. 22

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3. Staying agile and adapting fast

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hriving businesses stayed agile and adopted new business models as the pandemic progressed. For instance, some hotels started an additional business line by selling cookies when travel was not possible and room occupancy rates were suffering. Restaurants explored selling ready-to-cook ingredient packs when dine-in wasn’t possible. 4. Embracing digital all the way

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s soon as the pandemic hit China, the pace of digitalization accelerated, and the switch to the digital consumption of all services was smooth and natural.

While digitalization may be happening everywhere, China offers a fuller immersion. Citizens can use Taobao to book a medical consultation. There are holographic projections of singers in bars. And these aren’t big-city phenomena: we can see the application of livestreaming and online payments even in wet markets. 5. Reimagining new consumption scenarios

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hanks to the quick restoration of consumer confidence, multiple new consumption scenarios, such as home entertainment and community retail, have been generated. Community retail isn’t new–it started back in 2018. Sellers post information about new arrivals in a WeChat group, and a community can elect to purchase the products together. One community retail platform, Shixianghui, covered 60 communities in Wuhan before the outbreak, but reached 6,000 communities at the peak of the pandemic. Alibaba’s Freshippo, JD.com’s 7 Fresh, and even luxury brands have now adopted this business model.


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5 leadership lessons businesses can learn from China’s rebound

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hina’s government, business, and cultural responses to the pandemic can give businesses some constructive pointers on adapting to the devastating effects of the pandemic. 1. Craft your strategy for the new normal

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onsumer behaviors, preferences and purchasing journeys have changed. The new normal in China has created new demands and new consumption scenarios, and this environment could just as easily be fostered elsewhere in the world. One general rule of thumb is to always make sure that your strategy is customer-centered. Actively listen to changing needs in the market. Another useful strategy is diversifying your business model, giving the company one or more extra legs to stand on in hard times. For instance, in 2020, my training and keynotes business was heavily impacted by the pandemic. However, components such as strategy and expert calls are popular like never before. 2. Speed and agility are key

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hina has experienced some of the most radical transformations in recent history, largely due to being so fast-paced. In practice, this means thinking about your next steps in the morning and taking action in the afternoon. Xiaomi is famous for not having a strategy for its business. Each department head only has one goal at the beginning of each year: double the revenue. They simply get right to work and keep trying until they achieve the goal. What’s the lesson here? Just do it. Act fast, fail fast, and get back up fast. Set up agile structures and modify your action plan along the way so you can respond to future disruptions better. 3. Collaboration brings good

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e have already seen how China’s administration, businesses, consumers, and farmers came together. Partnerships and collaborations are important factors helping China move quickly. Seek opportunities to collaborate with different parties and build out your ecosystem. Reevaluate and broaden your network

of potential partners. Are there opportunities to collaborate with your competitors? These collaborations can happen across different industries as well. Alibaba launched a Rural Support Program enabling farmers to access Taobao Live at no cost, ultimately helping farmers sell more than 100,000 tons of agricultural products. It served a multilateral business case: not only did it benefit farmers, it also served consumers looking for fresh produce, and was profitable for Alibaba. 4. Empathy and optimism win business

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how empathy for your customers and your in-house team during and after the pandemic. Foster a sense of optimism and inclusion to lift and empower others to perform in moments of crisis. Staying human benefits businesses in return. Business owners who showed empathy, helped with the pandemic response, or changed their marketing strategies to reflect post-pandemic values were better received in the eyes of consumers.

5. Say ‘yes’ to livestreaming

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ivestreaming is the name of the game in China; more and more products and industries are driven by it. This trend has penetrated into markets outside of China too, and will only become more important as time passes. The paradigm shift often starts from the top. For example, the head chef at Meizhou Dongpo restaurant in Beijing now spends his days livestreaming cooking tutorials rather than preparing food. This helped boost sales of the restaurant’s luncheon meat 22 times year-on-year. In conclusion, China has shown a remarkable recovery from the pandemic, with credit due directly to the actions of stakeholders at every level of the economy. The success cases and best practices employed by Chinese companies are a study in remaining agile and adaptable. In short, remember that every crisis is an opportunity, and a world of opportunities is up for grabs.

Ashley is the Founder of ChoZan and Alarice. Spring 2020

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FEATURES RECESSION SURVIVAL GUIDE

  

 



                          

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Applying Startup Concepts to Your Lifestyle By CHRIS SHEI

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ntrepreneurship is the act of creating value, and as we often look to create value in our lives, it’s interesting to consider whether entrepreneurial principles can be relevant when applied to our personal lives. In my experience, surprisingly, I’ve found quite an overlap. Here are some takeaways that anyone– entrepreneur or not–can use to take a fresh approach to life.

Build a strong team

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s a CEO, the team you build is crucial to your startup’s success. Similarly, the people who surround you day to day are crucial to your personal success. Just as you would be meticulous about the employees you hire, so you should be particular about those you spend time with socially. A common adage says that you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Surrounding yourself with intelligent and ambitious individuals will challenge you to be more, do more, and share more. It would be extremely inadvisable to onboard an employee who is caustic to your team culture, so in your personal life, don’t surround yourself with cynics and doubters. It’s important to have critics around, but it’s impossible to live a positive life if you surround yourself with overtly negative people.

Take an agile approach

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hen creating a startup, entrepreneurs build a minimum viable product (MVP) and then iterate on it until they find product-market fit. It would be unthinkable for a startup to build something for four years without ever taking it to market. Interestingly enough, this waterfall approach is how many people go into their careers. We go to college for four years to pursue a career in a field we may not ultimately enjoy. Once we’re embedded in a certain career path, it can also be quite difficult to deviate. Take an agile approach to finding the product market fit in your life. For instance, if at some point in your life you begin considering graphic design as a better alternative to your current career path, take the time to find out whether it would be a good fit for you. You may not be able to take a year off to do graphic design school, but you can take some small classes on the side, do some freelance work, and ease yourself into the role. Continuously test and iterate on your beliefs to see if a specific direction is truly the one you want to pursue.

Always be innovating

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tartups do things that haven’t been done before, or find new ways to do things that are more resource-efficient. Apply an innovative mindset to your daily routine, develop new skills, and test new technologies to make your life more resource-efficient. Doing so leads to new opportunities, broadens your perspective, and ensures that you remain relevant.

The earliest content creators on YouTube literally ushered in an entirely new era of entertainment, though they couldn’t have predicted it at the time. Try new things, and even if they don’t necessarily lead to anything at the time, you never know how your past experience might apply to your future endeavors.

Finally, dream big A startup differentiates itself from a lifestyle business by hustling and grinding toward the goal of becoming a billiondollar company. Startups inherently dream big. Apply that same approach to your life and aim high. Doing so creates more excitement and anticipation, helps you overcome any limiting beliefs, and helps you realize that the word ‘impossible’ just doesn’t need to apply anymore.

Chris is an entrepreneur with a focus on blockchain, AI and ML. Spring 2020

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6 Ideal Team-Building Activities for the Post-COVID-19 Era By CINDY CHAN and IRIS WEN

2020 was a year hijacked by the COVID19 pandemic. With lockdowns and social distancing policies in place, many companies have flexibly switched to work from home (WFH) arrangements with little trouble. But work efficiency aside, WFH is not ideal when it comes to building company solidarity. With vaccines slowly making their way to people around the world, the epilogue of this crisis is drawing closer. After the pandemic is gone for good and normality is restored, it will be time to reconnect with teammates and company values–if not through travel, through bonding activities. Here are eight selected activities for companies to rebuild their team spirit post-COVID-19, while also being mindful of safety.

1. Hiking and picnicking

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hanks to COVID-19, we experienced more than enough involuntary indoor time last year. Once going out no longer poses as much danger to society, getting some fresh air and coming closer to nature will be healing and soothing after a year in confinement. Colleagues can socialize with each other while enjoying the beauty of nature

on a sunny day. Outside of food and water expenses, it will most likely also be cost-free. Remember to choose hiking trails that are easy to handle, even for elementary hikers, and check the weather forecast before setting out.

2. Escape Room

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or some startups, creative and intellectually-challenging activities might be more appealing. Escape rooms have seen their popularity wax and wane in recent years, but they are still enjoyable activities that promote teamwork and quick thinking. In an escape room, players attempt to escape a confined location within a given amount of time by discovering clues and solving puzzles collectively. It could be a great opportunity to boost team spirit with the common goal of escaping. The game could also be a good way of testing your team’s analytical and communication skills.

3. Cooking and Wine Tasting

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e all have one colleague who’s a ‘foodie.’ If your office comes with

a kitchen, pantry, or open space, consider organizing a cooking day. This can easily become a cultural feast if you invite teammates from international backgrounds to prepare dishes from their home countries, or work together to learn how to cook ethnic dishes. If you want to skip the hassle of cooking, a wine tasting day is an equally indulgent and delicious option. Outside service providers can be hired, or if you want to keep it simple, each employee can bring their favorite wine. Remember to buy some cheese too! Enjoy these treats over an afternoon or evening of relaxing conversation.

4. Art, Painting, Pottery

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f you want to bring out the creative side of your team, you can opt for an artistic activity like a painting or pottery class. These are both easy and fun. Far from physically-demanding, they are relaxing, interactive, and engaging activities that are well-suited to an evening after a long day of work. According to Harvard Health, doing art has also been proven to reduce stress–a sorely-needed relief in fast-paced city jobs. Choosing an activity which encourages relaxation and creativity could lead to a less stressed and more motivated team.

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5. Volunteering

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f your company values corporate responsibility, organizing a volunteering opportunity is an excellent choice. One-off volunteering with local food aid organizations, tree planting, or rubbish recycling is easy to organize. It’s a valuable opportunity to strengthen the company’s moral compass, and it is rewarding and meaningful for both your colleagues and the community as a whole.

6. Game night or movie night

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he simplest (and sometimes the most satisfying) of all the options is to have a game night or movie night at the office after work. You just need a projector, a white wall, some snacks, decent drinks, and voila–an evening of cozy and low-key bonding which requires almost no advance preparation. 2020 has been a challenging year for workers to keep their spirits high. In these troubled times, team-building activities might allow you to take a break from your normal work routine and re-energize your team, getting everyone ready for a better 2021. Cindy is Jumpstart’s Senior Executive and Iris is Jumpstart’s Editorial Intern. Spring 2020

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The Youth Perspective: Success in YouTube and Entrepreneurship Jacklyn Dallas, the 19-year-old CEO of NothingButTech, shares her advice on building a YouTube channel and a personal brand By MONIKA GHOSH

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hile most 19-year-olds are busy thinking about college courses and internships, Jacklyn Dallas has already established herself as a YouTuber and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of NothingButTech–a startup she founded to produce YouTube videos. Her YouTube channel has over 147,000 followers. Dallas does tech reviews, mostly of smartphones. What makes her channel alluring is how she simplifies technical concepts. Her aim has always been to make tech easily understandable, simplifying things to the point where even her grandmother can understand it. But at the same time, she also ensures that her videos are informative and entertaining.

She started out at the age of 13 after multiple relatives asked her for help solving simple tech problems. “People were constantly texting me like, ‘Could you help me update my phone?’ or just who’s simple tech things that someone that’s really interested in tech would find easy, but people outside of the space may be daunted by,” says Dallas. In response, she sent short video tutorials to friends and relatives in need of help. “I would send my grandma a video on how to reset her email password; I would send my friend a video on how to change the resolution on their phone for the camera,” she says.

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Realizing that more people may need similar assistance, she started posting her tutorials on YouTube in the form of screen recordings and voice-over instructions. But this format wasn’t creatively fulfilling for Dallas, which is why she made the jump to tech reviews. This allowed her to shoot videos from different angles and play with lighting. More than just filmmaking, Dallas’ journey has been one of building a fan following and a personal brand–no small feat for a young adult. She shares her advice for aspiring YouTubers.

Be patient

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allas’ first warning is that subscriber growth is very low initially, but tends to rise quickly once there’s a little traction. “It takes a really long time to build an audience because you’re relying on YouTube recommending your content and search and all these factors,” says Dallas. “Plus, most people, when they start on YouTube, are not great-like my videos were absolutely terrible. So it’s hard to build an audience in the beginning, but then, once you grow an audience, it just continues to snowball,” she adds. Her own meteoric growth is a case in point. She had only 3,000 subscribers at the end of the first year. But that grew to 22,000 and then 50,000 subscribers by the end of the second and third year respectively. Adding to this, being a YouTuber often amounts to years of unpaid labor, making persistence a key trait. For the first two and half years, Dallas didn’t earn any money from YouTube. Later, whatever she earned was invested into renting an office space and buying equipment. “After a couple of months, I only had six people subscribed to the channel, [and] I think a lot of people would have been like, ‘Okay, this obviously doesn’t work,’” says Dallas. “And I think if you’re in that position, and you’re reading this article right now, just stick with it, because growth is gradual.”

Know your audience

Jacklyn Dallas, now 19-years-old, started out doing tech tutorials at the age of 13. Photo courtesy of Jacklyn Dallas.

“I think a mistake that a lot of people make when they’re starting a YouTube channel is that they try to be too broad in an effort to reach everyone, [and] they end up reaching no one,” says Dallas. When she started her channel, her audience consisted of people who did not necessarily care about technology but Spring 2020

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wanted to solve a problem. “It was someone like my grandma who just wanted to figure out how to reset her email password. She wasn’t necessarily interested in why certain things worked, or exploring how to do complex things on our phones,” says Dallas. Dallas’ team does a small exercise to ensure her content matches with her audience’s interests: they come up with an avatar–an imaginary person who represents her audience demographic. “[The team] comes up with a name, and age and all these other attributes of someone that we think would watch this video,” says Dallas. “And I think that’s super important. Because, if you specify and you try to reach one person, you’re much more likely to connect and reach an audience.”

Spend time on your video title and thumbnail “The title and thumbnail are the two most important things that you could do with a video,” says Dallas. These act as packaging for a video, stimulating interest and curiosity. “You need to make sure you’re prom-

Top: Dallas speaking at Web Summit 2019. Bottom: Dallas filming a video in her studio. Photos courtesy of Jacklyn Dallas. 30

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ising something engaging,” says Dallas. She explains using a simple example: while reviewing the iPhone 12, she would not title the video “Buy iPhone 12,” since it gives away the video’s entire narrative and leaves no reason to watch it. “Instead, if I made the video [title] ‘iPhone 12: should you buy it?’ I’ve created a question that you want an answer to,” she says. Dallas says that YouTubers often make

the mistake of ignoring the importance of titles and thumbnails and lose out on their audience. “The thumbnail should also pique interest...the core idea is that you want to be able to tell the full story of the video in one single frame,” she adds.

The dos and don’ts of personal brand building “I think building a brand for everyone is kind of different. For me, building a brand was really just about being authentic,” she says. “So for me, that means I want to make all my videos entertaining, and not just informative.” This was ultimately key to her brand– curating authentic content and building a channel and a community around it. In 2020, Dallas started a Discord server for NothingButTech subscribers, which they use to engage with her and with each other, forming a close-knit community. “You can’t just have your audience only like you. You need them to also feel like they’re part of a community,” says Dallas. Last but not least, “You have to be really careful not to put all your eggs in one basket and to diversify,” says Dallas. Outside of YouTube, Dallas has also started a podcast with a friend this year. She’s also a public speaker, and attending conferences has become a big part of her business in the past year, she says. Ultimately, Dallas’ success and business savvy show that entrepreneurial pursuits aren’t too far out of reach for anyone with the skills to start something up and the resilience to make it work. Persistence, as the saying goes, pays off. Monika is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.


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9 Apps to Help You Keep Your Resolutions in 2021 By RELENA SEI

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he tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to ancient Babylon, some 4,000 years ago. That translates into 4,000 years of disappointment and broken resolutions. Luckily, we can now use nifty apps developed by innovative companies worldwide to keep track of our goals. The apps below are bound to give you a better chance at conquering your resolutions in 2021.

cial goals and save money based on simple and actionable financial advice. Planto also makes uploading expenses easy by automating the process for you. In fact, it will even provide weekly expense reports so you can monitor your spending. Best of all, if Planto can’t satisfy all your financial needs, it will suggest other services, including loan providers or investment brokers. Although this app is subscription-based, at HK$48 a month and HK$478 a year, it’s bound to save you more than it costs.

If 2020 was a year in disarray and you are looking to be organized in 2021:

If you weren’t active in 2020 and you’re looking to be fitter in 2021:

As someone who is always jotting down a long list of outstanding tasks, I realize that the problem of to-do lists are twofold: (1) tasks pop into my mind when it’s not convenient to jot them down, and so I forget them later, and (2) when I do create my list, it’s hard to sort out what to prioritize. Todoist can elegantly resolve these issues by providing a flexible platform that can be as simple or complex as a user wants it to be. It allows for collaborations, tagging, filtering, and there is even a widget for the smartphone app. As an extra bonus, Todoist now allows you to organize your to-do list in Kanban format.

Since it first launched in January 2009, Nike Training Club hasn’t disappointed. This app has so much content that there is something for everyone, no matter your fitness level. The voiceguided coaching keeps you motivated, while videos make it easy to follow along. It’s almost like having your own personal trainer, but without the cost. You can choose the muscle group you want to focus on, the workout type, and the difficulty.

If your wallet felt a little light in 2020, and you want to manage your finances in 2021:

Engross uses the pomodoro technique, but morphs it into a more sophisticated application. You can label and set up each pomodoro based on your projects, and you can even pre-define the number of hours you work per day and the breaks you plan to take. What sets this app apart, however, is that it allows

Planto may be a newer app with relatively few reviews, but it is truly a diamond in the rough. This app allows you to set finan32

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If you were distracted in 2020 and are looking to become more focused in 2021:


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you to press a button every time you are distracted. By collecting and analyzing your taps, it can tell you when you are most often distracted, allowing you to efficiently tackle distractions and “engross” yourself in work.

If you felt down in 2020 and are looking for inspiration and positivity in 2021: The name of the app, Happy Not Perfect, says it all. Instead of aspiring for perfection, why not aim to find positivity this year? This app helps you identify your moods, which is the first step to processing emotions healthily. After this, the app will guide you to let go and to focus on gratitude and happiness. It allows you to record memories of happiness, overcoming challenges, or kindness from others. There are also ‘pep talk’ and guided meditation functions, in addition to over 150 mindfulness activities, including games, ‘letting go’ exercises, and a social chat function. Although I don’t see any science supporting the content, this colorful app does put me in a happy place.

If you couldn’t travel in 2020, but want to prepare for new adventures in 2021: We all have different reasons for wanting to pick up a new language, be it for professional use, travel, or even a budding romance with someone from another country. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know where to start, and whom to practice with. Duolingo is experiencing a renaissance due to global lockdowns. With an easy-to-use interface that provides a clear overview of the content and options, it uses images and symbols to efficiently help you remember what you learned. The program helps with pronunciation by making you speak out loud and even offers recording exercises to improve your oral skills.

If your reactions were sluggish in 2020 and you want to keep your mind sharp in 2021: The brain is like a muscle: it’s got to be conditioned to keep it sharp. Elevate is an award winning app that offers over 35 games that help you hone different skills. Like other gamification apps, Elevate provides challenging

activities that are fun, but also help to boost productivity, communication and analytical skills. The games are supported by research, but it’s the beautiful interface and the ability to track progress and skills that will keep you coming back for more. It’s no wonder that Elevate was Apple’s App of the Year in 2014–this year is the perfect time to bring it back.

If you tanked in exams in 2020 and you want to boost your results in 2021: Acing tests requires a lot of memorization, and what better way than with flashcards? Twenty years ago, all my flashcards were made with scissors, paper, and pen. Today, Quizlet allows you to generate and organize flashcards on your smartphone. If you’re feeling lazy, you can even find flashcards uploaded by other users instead of creating your own. Quizlet’s flexible system can handle pictures, diagrams, and even audio uploads, so you can prepare for anything that the test throws your way. Best of all, you can access these flashcards anywhere: your phone, tablet, or browser.

If you kept forgetting passwords in 2020, and you want to safely organize your passwords in 2021: Everyone has heard security breach horror stories. We all know we should use different passwords for all our accounts, but let’s be honest: we all only have two or three passwords that we use on a rotational basis. In today’s world, where an account is needed for every product or service, it’s impossible to remember unique passwords. Luckily, LastPass can free up your memory by storing and filling in your passwords. The app stores your usernames and passwords for each site when you log in, so that every time you return, your credentials will be filled in automatically and securely. LastPass also securely stores personal information to fill in online forms automatically, and allows you to safely share passwords. This year, let’s make the most of innovation to take ownership of our goals, keep ourselves healthy and positive, and win in 2021. Relena is Co-founder and CEO of Jumpstart. Spring 2020

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Headphones, Keep Up A new niche is opening up in the audio tech industry. By ALEX LAU and ANDREW VAN HASSELT

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he growing popularity of audio-focused entertainment, such as live streaming, podcasts, and audio books, has pushed the audio industry from humble beginnings to an incredible space brimming with potential. If we pause for a moment to consider, we realize that interacting with audio on a daily basis is far more prevalent than we think. For example, as you travel to work in the car, you might be listening to a podcast, followed by making a string of conference calls at work, before settling down at home to watch the latest series of your favorite show. Our ears are constantly at work. However, innovations in the audio space pale in comparison to other industries, such as mobile technology or wearables. This large, untapped market provides the perfect storm of opportunities for innovative startups willing to take advantage of the gap. This can be seen in transactions in the M&A space, such as Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics for US$3 billion in 2014. The growth of the headphone market has also been guided by hardware standards, as more and more manufacturers design phones without headphone jacks, strategically guiding consumers to purchase wireless headphones. In the first half of 2019 alone, global audio device sales grew 15% compared to H1 2018, to a sales volume of around US$9.6 billion (GfK). According

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to Statista, 445 million headphones were sold in 2019, and this number is expected to grow to an astonishing 1.3 billion by 2027. For startups ready to pounce on this opportunity, the important question is: where is the audio market going next? Although wireless technologies are prevalent right now, the growing focus on health and wellness will soon sweep the audio market by storm. If we consider the ubiquity of headphones and the rise in podcasts, audio books, and video conferencing, paired with the complexity and fragility of the ear system, there exists a gap between the growing use of headphones and hearing protection. The ear system is rather complex and delicate, making it vulnerable and subject to degradation. According to WHO, unaddressed hearing losses cost the economy US$750 billion annually, and not only from the costs of hearing aids, but also in terms of opportunities for educational support, losses in productivity, and other societal costs. There is likely to soon be a demand for headphone manufacturers that are able to use technology to provide clear sounds in a manner that protects the ear system. These technologies can use personalized special algorithms for each individual’s ear system. Another avenue being explored is the application of hearing aid technology to earphones. This technology can be applied not only to the hearing-impaired, who struggle with finding headphones equipped with hearing aids, but also to the general public looking to protect their hearing while still enjoying an unparalleled audio experience. The rise of the wellness and health niche within the audio market is imminent. For startups ready for the opportunity, the prospects are vast. Alex is an entrepreneur and founder of AiiO Limited. Andrew is involved in the spectrum of hearing restoration.


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India’s Startup Ecosystem is Coming of Age Internet connectivity, homegrown success stories, and loosening regulations: India’s startup ecosystem is ushering in a new dawn. By SANJAY ENISHETTY

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one are the days when being an Indian startup would mean being an appbased aggregator rip-off of an American original. While foreign-inspired businesses such as ecommerce marketplace Flipkart and ride hailing app Ola are worth billions of dollars and are success stories in their own right, Indians today are building products that can service customers and be adopted the world over. Take for instance Postman, a SaaS startup that helps developers create, share, 36

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test, and document APIs. According to a survey by SlashData, there are 19 million developers in the world–this startup, valued at over US$2 billion, claims that its services are used by 11 million of them. Similarly, consider hotel room aggregator Oyo Rooms, one of SoftBank’s crown jewels. After capturing the Indian market, it has now forayed into international waters, with a rapidly-growing presence in the U.S., China, and the U.K., among other countries. For a long time, India has suffered from brain drain, with our top scientists

and engineers leaving for better prospects at U.S.-based, cutting-edge technology companies. This is being slowly remedied, with several deep tech startups in sectors such as space technology, workforce automation, and artificial intelligence being founded and led by the country’s brightest minds. More importantly, these aren’t just sabbatical experiments–they are well-funded by top-tier VC firms such as Sequoia, Bessemer Ventures, Lightspeed India, and Accel Partners, a hopeful indicator of longevity.


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Rise of Tier II and III startups

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he common wisdom until recently for any entrepreneur who sought to be noticed and accepted by the startup community was to set up shop in Bengaluru or Gurugram. It was really tough to build a tech company outside of these bases, as the existing support ecosystem didn’t care to peer into the hinterlands for new ideas. That status quo has been broken in the past few years–perhaps by the entry of the Tier II and III audience into the digital world. The 2016 launch of Reliance Jio, a telecom company launched by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, changed everything. Offering freemium data plans that charged less than a dollar per gigabyte, a price war between telecom players followed, and as a result, Internet penetration increased from 340 million to 700 million in four years. This has helped open the doors to building and scaling up digital businesses even in other parts of India. According to a study by YourStory, cities like Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, and Ahmedabad have been seeing good funding flows since 2018, which even continued into the first half of 2020 for a select few. The biggest selling point of these startups is that they aren’t just building apps modeled on Western counterparts–their focus is on solving local problems and tapping micro markets that were previously ignored. Edtech startup Cymatic, based in one of India’s poorest and least literate states, provides virtual classrooms in villages where government schools are dysfunctional and teachers don’t want to stay. ExpertRight, based in the largely desert state of Rajasthan, helps freelancers connect with employers looking for gig workers. These are just two examples of startups that are battle-hardened, having survived years of low cash flows by getting their unit economics right. As unicorns struggle to break even and scale to the ticket size of Tier II and III consumers, many other startups are working hard to solve issues at the grassroots.

The booster dose of policy

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hankfully, starting up has become a lot easier in India. National and state governments have reduced compliance barriers to registering a business. The national government itself has also become

an angel investor of sorts, with a $1.3 billion corpus for funding early stage startups. It has eased norms to allow startups to participate in government tenders, and permitted an income tax holiday of three years. IPOs remain difficult for late-stage startups in India, as the country’s capital markets regulator requires companies to be profitable for three successive years before listing. Given the relative immaturity of India’s retail investors, this is unlikely to change in the short term. However, there’s a very important change in the offing: the government is mulling a policy amendment that could allow privately-held Indian startups to list on international bourses, opening up new avenues for fundraising.

Funding flows are steadily increasing

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hile short cash runways remain an issue, India’s young companies are still snagging a lot of deals. In the first half of 2020, when COVID-19 was decimating the global economy, the number of funding deals rose by 3.2%. The only negative impact on the funding side was that ticket sizes of the deals have reduced drastically, by 17.2% to $10.6 million, according to YourStory. Meanwhile, the Indian startup ecosystem raised a record $14.5 billion last year, making it one of the biggest. To put this number in perspective, the country’s startups had raised a combined amount of just over $570 million in 2010. Interestingly, it’s not only investors

with decades of experience in funding tech startups that are making the bets. Traditional Indian business houses, with family offices that manage billions of dollars, are also taking the plunge.

The big boys are joining the party

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ukesh Ambani’s Reliance has been on an acquisition spree in the past couple of years, bulking up his portfolio in the telecom, entertainment, and retail sectors. Pawan Munjal, the CEO of one of India’s biggest two-wheeler companies, has invested in an array of startups in the ride hailing and car servicing spaces. Adar Poonawala, the heir to the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer and one of the companies producing the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for COVID-19, has made a series of bets in areas like healthy snacks and molecular diagnostics. With billions of dollars riding on them, startups today aren’t the playthings of 20-somethings anymore. While Silicon Valley understood a long time ago that a Mark Zuckerberg would need a Sheryl Sandberg to act as consigliere, this realization came late to the Indian startup scene. Joining a startup as an experienced professional was thought to be a risky career move. The good news is, that’s beginning to change, with serial entrepreneurs and seasoned business executives taking the plunge in founding and leading startups. With motivation, funding, and the right guidance, Indian startups are set to grow at an incredible pace. Sanjay is the MD & CEO at 50K Ventures. Spring 2020

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Miracle On The Mekong River Vietnam’s startup ecosystem is growing, and growing fast By STEVE CERVANTES

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mong the numerous dynamic ecosystems I have worked with in the last 10 years, Vietnam’s whirlwind development bears no comparison. As recently as five years ago, Vietnam was widely seen as a premier outsourcing destination, but not as a top-tier startup hub. The inflexion point came in 2019. Vietnam unprecedentedly surpassed perennial Southeast Asian (SEA) leader Singapore in tech startup funding and earned 17% of SEA’s total startup investment. According to the Vietnam Tech Investment Report 2019 by Do Ventures, startup investment reached a record high in 2019 with $861 million in 123 venture

Compared to other SEA nations, Vietnam ranks third in Internet penetration, second in mobile penetration, and has the second-fastest average mobile connectivity speed. deals, twice that of 2018. The amount of invested capital and number of technology deals have grown eight-fold from 20162019, where foreign investment constituted the [lion’s share] of total investment (Vietnam Net).

Compared to other SEA nations, Vietnam ranks third in Internet penetration, second in mobile penetration, and has the second-fastest average mobile connectivity speed (Vietnam Tech Investment Report 2019). Perhaps Vietnam’s most revealing milestone is its aggregate of 3,000 strong startups, second only to Singapore in sheer numbers and three times as many as its nearest rival, Indonesia. Though skeptics point out that Vietnam’s two unicorns (VinaGame and VNPay) are both fewer in number and smaller (in terms of valuation) than Indonesia’s four, the comparison could be misguided given government strategists’ forecasts of ten unicorns by 2030. These Spring 2020

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‘soonicorns’ could render Vietnam the per-capita regional and global leader. The Vietnamese startup ecosystem’s achievements in the last five years, its DNA, and its scalability are truly encapsulated in its moniker, the “Miracle on the Mekong River.”

Vietnam’s five-year metamorphosis

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hough Vietnam’s cashless payments remain the lowest in contrast to leading ASEAN nations, Co-founder of mobile platform provider Appota Lien Nguyen says that online payment infrastructure has seen improvements over the year. Pre-COVID-19 Vietnam’s credit card ownership was only 4.1% compared to Thailand’s 9.8%, and the debit card ratio was even worse at 26.8%, lower than Indonesia at 30.9% and Malaysia at 73.8% (VnExpress), but this has rapidly changed. “Online payment infrastructure [...] has improved with aggressive investments of well-funded startups in the digital financial services industry, as well as incumbents in the financial and retail services,” Lien says. Exemplifying this, Tiki.vn (one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing B2C ecommerce platforms), received an undisclosed amount equivalent to a 25% stake from Chinese ecommerce titan JD.com and $75 million from North Star Group last year (e27). What’s more, Vietnam’s most recent unicorn, VNPay–one of Vietnam’s largest fintech startups–became a unicorn in early 2020. VNPay’s $300 million in funding from Masayoshi Son’s Softbank Vision Fund and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC in 2019 made it the most-funded SEA fintech startup last year (Retail News Asia). Massive capital infusions notwithstanding, the preferred payment method pre-COVID-19 was cash on delivery (COD), which made up 88% of online transactions. Trust and transparency are generally culpable for perpetuating offline consumer purchasing: delivered products sometimes differ from those ordered; and COD affords customers the right to decline payment upon delivery. Yet, the pandemic is conversely promoting consumer trust in online and mobile purchasing behavior; so much so that according to a February 2020 Nielsen Report, 38% of those surveyed said they are using online banking and e-wallets more frequently.

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Mobile payments year-over-year grew an astounding 200% (Nikkei Asia). Like most global ecosystems, the highest proportion of funding goes to selected toptier Vietnamese startups; founders lacking connections or networks have difficulty attracting domestic or foreign funding. “Most funding goes to the big guys,” says Hieu Nguyen, CEO of XTAYPRO, one of Vietnam’s leading sharing economy platforms in transportation. There are, however, fledgling trends flying under the radar: for instance, investments from Vietnam’s largest investor: South Korea. South Korea’s largest conglomerate, Samsung, is Vietnam’s largest corporate foreign investor. The company kicked in $17 billion in foreign investment in 2019 alone. While Samsung is not investing in startups per se, its spillover effect is luring in some of South Korea’s largest venture capital and private equity firms, such as POSCO Venture Capital and Mirae Asset-Naver. Mirae Asset-Naver is notably investing jointly with VinaCapital Ventures (a $100 million Vietnam-focused venture capital platform) in tech related ‘minicorns’–startups with a valuation of over $1 million.

Perhaps an even greater challenge to startup funding over the years has been government laws and regulations. “Although the government has expressed support for the startup ecosystem, much still needs to be done, especially updating the legal system,” says Hieu. “Even the VCs are complaining [about] how hard it is to legally invest in Vietnam-based startups; that we often must move our headquarters to Singapore to receive the investments. This in turn complicates the unnecessary paperwork and increases the cost of operations.” The Vietnamese government, cognizant of this roadblock, is amending current investment laws to attract the funding that’s hastily leaving China because of the Sino-American trade war. The government hopes that this will incentivize startups to incorporate in Vietnam, or encourage those who have moved to Singapore to repatriate. Taking effect in January 2021, the new investment law will give foreign investors the same market access as domestic ones, as well as investment incentives such as tax exemptions and lessening incorporation procedures. While this is encouraging, strides still need to be made in the corporate tax arena.


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“Although the government has expressed support for the startup ecosystem, much still needs to be done, especially updating the legal system,” daily life, she believes more can be done. “There has still not been enough invested [commensurate] to the amount of growth potential thus far,” she says. “There’s room to grow in many industries in Vietnam. It seems that the most fundamental industries are in dire need of reform and startups may be able to solve problems in those areas better than incumbents–areas such as healthcare and education” Lien adds.

The role of the foreigner in Vietnam’s startup world

C Vietnamese corporate taxes are about 20% with few exemptions. In comparison, Singapore’s corporate tax rate is 17%, and there are numerous tax exemptions, such as a 75% exemption on the first $100,000 of chargeable income (GuideMeSingapore). Also, while incorporating in Vietnam can take up to three months, Singapore is normally two weeks.

ontrary to foreign VCs and PEs, foreign startups have yet to significantly contribute to meeting Vietnam’s shortfall in demand. The country’s paucity of foreign startups compared to other Asian ecosystems are linked to language barriers, less governmental assistance in the form of grants or programs, fewer expat net-

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works, and a dearth of partnership opportunities with Vietnamese companies. Yet, despite these barriers to entry, post-COVID-19 Vietnam’s sheer market size and FDI may galvanize foreign startups to take the plunge. Though it will be difficult for non-Vietnamese speakers to enter innovative and high-tech areas given communication issues, coming in with a foreign perspective and leveraging skills in areas of demand could create niche markets and new value propositions in those areas. Lien predicts plenty of changes over the next five years, apart from 2019’s pivotal (and continued) growth in startup funding. “With continued strong macro fundamentals and favorable demographics, the startup ecosystem will continue to attract funding from domestic and foreign investors, and funding is certainly an extremely important piece of the puzzle that can catapult Vietnamese startups into the next level,” she says. Vietnam’s ecosystem has truly ‘come of age.’ The fledgling startup ecosystem, once a blip on the world’s tech radar, is now a global player in its own right. Steve is an Associate Professor in the Dep. of International Trade at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea.

Vietnam’s post-COVID-19 ecosystem

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he Vietnamese startup ecosystem’s rapid pace of growth is likely to pick up where it left off pre-COVID-19, and then some. This is largely due to who the investors are. By and large, Vietnamese startups’ leading investors come from APAC nations, specifically China, South Korea, and Singapore. North American and Western European investment is negligible. Vietnam’s proximity to its leading investors, domestic market saturation, and enormous startup growth potential have catalyzed investment growth exponentially. Though Lien believes that startups can “make a great impact” as funding grows and various startup verticals crystallize into fixtures of Vietnamese Spring 2020

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Blockchain in 2021 and Beyond Trends, challenges, and predictions for the blockchain industry By REETHU RAVI

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he year 2020 made waves in the world of blockchain and digital currencies. While Bitcoin took phenomenal leaps in price, blockchain kept economies moving by facilitating cash-flow management (World Economic Forum). According to Statista, global blockchain technology revenues are expected to reach US$39 billion by 2025. With its enhanced security and heightened transparency features, the technology is growing in popularity, and companies across industries are climbing on the bandwagon.

Impact of COVID-19 on blockchain

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OVID-19 accelerated digitization in nearly every sector including blockchain and crypto. The past year saw several institutions adopt blockchain technology for enterprise applications. “Financial institutions are trying to use the technology to transform their existing business from human-heavy to more operationally efficient businesses, particularly in the banking sector,” says, Adrian Lai, Co-Founder and CEO of Liquefy, a Hong Kong-based security token issuance and compliance platform. According to Lai, two other major sectors making the transition to blockchain technology are supply chain management and ecommerce. The characteristics of blockchain, particularly its immutability, make it perfect for supply chain management.

China leads the way with CBDCs

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ccording to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 80% of the world’s central banks have already started to investigate the potential of the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), and China is on the fast-track to becoming the first major economy to launch one. In 2020, China’s sovereign digital currency program, Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), was pilot-tested across several cities. Early last year, the country began rolling out tests for a digital Yuan. “People underestimate how impactful CBDCs are and are always confused that they are separated from the rest of the crypto ecosystem,” says Lai. However, once CBDCs are launched, “they will be the head of the supply chain and control the interaction of other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.” Lai also suggests that China’s CBDC launch is likely to impact regional neighbors, prompting them to explore their own digital currencies. 42

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Increasing crypto fraud Along with increasing investments in cryptocurrency, the past year also witnessed a steady rise in crypto fraud and hacking. Global crypto exchanges, including KuCoin and Eterbase, suffered high-profile hacks. Lai says the industry itself has to move from centralized to decentralized trading venues. Additionally, instead of having regulators impose controls, it is important for the industry to regulate itself. As Lai explains, third-party regulation contradicts the original concepts behind Bitcoin and blockchain. “As we remember, the birth of Bitcoin was actually to get rid of government regulators,” Lai says. “So, regulators coming in to regulate the trading or transaction of Bitcoin proves the failure of the technology itself.”

Challenges and the future of the industry

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hile on the one end of the spectrum are people who believe in a completely decentralized world without government, on the other end are people who think Bitcoin is a scam. A technology with such an extreme spectrum, Lai says, is dangerous. Referencing how the second-largest donation to U.S. President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign came from the CEO of cryptocurrency derivatives platform FTX, Lai says, “People don’t realize that crypto is changing the world so dramatically, even politically.” He adds that this is a huge challenge for the industry. The second challenge, he says, is people using cryptocurrency for illegal activities. In the short term, Lai says that many institutions will be rolling out proof of concepts for enterprise blockchain solutions. In the medium term, development in blockchain technology will be led by ecommerce and tech companies. Meanwhile, in the long term, Lai predicts that blockchain will drive the next Internet–owned by the community, and completely decentralized. After a decade of being touted as the most disruptive technology, 2021 may finally offer blockchain the opportunity to prove skeptics wrong and be the driving force behind real, powerful change across industries. Reethu is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.


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Big Tech, Big Data, and Bigger Problems “Facebook doesn’t have customers, it has hostages.” – Cindy Cohn By SHARON LEWIS

When I ask entrepreneurs to think a little beyond the surveillance business model, they say that they can’t possibly. Well you’re either an innovator, or you’re not,”

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ontroversies in the tech world often make headlines, but a highly-publicized clash between two titans stands out in bold print. As is common today, data lies at the heart of this latest feud. Among a series of changes to Apple’s user privacy and data use policy to be rolled out this year for iOS 14, apps will soon need to ask iPhone users for their permission before tracking them across other apps and websites (Apple). In response to this development, Facebook released two full-page newspaper ads and an 1800-word statement called “Speaking Up for Small Businesses.” In the statement, Facebook’s Vice President of Ads and Business Products Dan Levy claimed that Apple’s policy would hurt the sales of small businesses, and force them to turn elsewhere for revenue. The statement only made a cursory mention of “Facebook’s diversified ads business,” which thrives off user data tracking (including information about user behavior off Facebook, regardless of whether those users have a Facebook account or not, according to Facebook’s data policy). About 98% of Facebook’s total revenue comes from its ads business. In 2019, the company made over US$69 billion from ads. In 2020, according to the company’s fourth quarter earnings report, this grew to $84 billion. In the brawl between the two Big Tech firms and in the larger conversation around privacy, commercial data surveillance for targeted and personalized advertising is a key flashpoint. The topic of data surveillance blew up in 2018 after the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, where over 50 million Facebook users’ information was harvested without consent and used for political gain (The New York Times). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg subsequently failed to explain why third parties enjoyed access to users’ personal information for so long 44

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(The Guardian), painting a revealing picture of the company’s attitude toward data protection. As Cindy Cohn tells it, Facebook used that moment to further distance itself from data responsibility. Cohn, a champion of digital rights, is the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She was featured on the TheNonProfitTimes’ 2020 Power & Influence TOP 50 list and named one of Forbes’ America’s Top 50 Women in Tech in 2018. “I was really excited when people woke up to [Cambridge Analytica],” says Cohn, “but it’s actually turned out to be kind of bittersweet. Policy responses have not have not addressed the real problem, which is that Facebook has way too much of our data and way too much control over it, and that we need to be more empowered.”

Big Tech is watching consumers

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ohn believes that Big Tech still has a monopoly on data because the cycle of innovation has stagnated in the past two decades. “We don’t have new companies coming in and eating Facebook’s lunch the same way Facebook ate the lunch of Myspace. We don’t have a new search engine that’s coming in and moving us away from Google, the way that Google moved everybody away from Yahoo,” she says. Data and advanced advertising algorithms put power into Big Tech’s hands. The Internet is a vast mix of online locations (such as websites and apps), geographical locations, and unique online behaviors. As the Internet grew, advertisers


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became able to reach users in multitudinous ways. Some advertisers target users through their search history. Others display ads based on the context of the website or app; for instance, advertising a neobank on a finance blog. But a third kind, behavioral targeting, has attracted the most acclaim and scrutiny. Behavioral targeting uses data including what users search for, click on, and buy, to serve customized ads. A 2009 Network Advertising Initiative study found that it increased the chances of sales conversion by at least twice that of run-on-network advertising, where ads are placed on a website arbitrarily. While good for business, it’s essentially a surveillance program that delivers data to scores of advertisers, data brokers, and government agencies. Users often have no idea who knows what, and how much, about them. ProPublica found that Facebook collects and buys enough data on users to classify them across 52,000 unique attributes. Google can record all user activities on its app ecosystem, including location data even when signed out of Google Maps (CNET). The practice not only uses data to predict behaviors, it also manipulates users into making decisions based on cues, rewards, and punishments (The Harvard Gazette). Successful as it may be, Cohn rejects the idea that behavioral targeting is the only way to grow. “When I [ask entrepreneurs] to think a little beyond the surveillance business model, they say that [they] can’t possibly. Well you’re either an innovator, or you’re

not,” Cohn says. “If you want to be an innovator, you’ve got to be willing to think outside the box that we’re currently in. Whoever breaks us out of that box is going to win big the same way as Zuckerberg won big when he figured out how to do social networking.”

Undoing the surveillance economy

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ne of the earliest red flags of the data economy was the focus on using tracking cookies to “[attract] eyeballs for advertising,” Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School Shoshana Zuboff said in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. This, she said, created a “new economic logic that offered a fast track to monetization.”

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Zuboff is credited with coining the term ‘Surveillance Capitalism’, the economic system that commodifies and sells personal data. The ability to monetize data in this way and at this scale is a result of developments over the past two decades. As Cohn explains, there are several enablers of mass consumer surveillance: slow regulation on data privacy, investors being unwilling to fund ideas that compete with Big Tech (Bloomberg), and clickwrap agreements which often give users no choice but to click ‘I Agree.’ The surveillance capitalism system has thus engineered conditions where companies in any industry can only compete if they have extremely granular data, and where users struggle to take back control of their personal information. “We need to have some basic privacy rules on the floor,” Cohn says. “People shouldn’t be stuck with the responsibility of having to navigate these concerns themselves. It’s not right, and it’s leading to people feeling overwhelmed and powerless.” Data, and its use in furthering technological progress, is a multilayered issue. But Cohn suggests that a good litmus test is to check whether it makes the life of the user better. It’s the only legitimate argument for the use of data, which is why companies often resort to it to justify their practices. There’s no panacea for the web of data exploitation that Big Tech opened up. The situation calls for a confluence of big data ethics, user-oriented privacy regulation, public education, and industry guidelines for the competitive use of data. It’s a tall order, but ultimately, one that will make the Internet a safer, less exploitative place.

Sharon is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart. Spring 2021

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Blowing the Whistle in America, 2020 Thanks to technology and social media, calling out misbehavior and misconduct has never been easier. It’s also never been harder. By NAYANTARA BHAT

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dward Snowden. Chelsea Manning. Reality Winner. Three American names familiar the world over, for leaking classified information to sites like WikiLeaks and media organizations like The Intercept. These names and the fallout from their activities popularized the term ‘whistleblower,’ but according to Mark Zaid, the foremost national security lawyer in the United States, the descriptor should be used sparingly–and doesn’t apply to any of them. Zaid, who’s had a storied career defending U.S. government whistleblowers, taking on high-profile Freedom of Information Act cases, and suing multiple foreign governments including those of Libya, the Republic of Georgia, and Equatorial Guinea, didn’t get to where he is by mincing his words. One of his primary tenets when it comes to leaking classified information is: don’t do it.

“I think there will always be a role for whistleblowers. And it should be a role that is applauded rather than condemned.”

“In the national security context, when we’re talking about classified information, I do not consider anyone a whistleblower if they revealed classified information without authorization,” he says. This is because in the national security context specifically, doing so can damage or invalidate the individual’s legal protection as a whistleblower.

The U.S. has some of the strongest legislation encouraging people to come forward with allegations of high-level misconduct, including the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. Yet, in the past four years, there’s been an outpouring of misinformation and disinformation from former U.S. President Trump and his allies directed at whistleblowers, thereby altering public perception of them. It’s easy to understand why bad actors might want to delegitimize Zaid’s work. He represented the whistleblower who alleged that Trump had requested Ukraine to look into Joe Biden and son Hunter. The allegations eventually led to the president’s impeachment. But the campaign to cast doubt on the verity of whistleblowers’ claims has forced Zaid to turn to a new courtroom for damage control–Twitter. Though firmly non-partisan, having Spring 2021

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represented individuals on both sides of the U.S. political divide, Zaid doesn’t shy away from expressing his opinions and clapping back at willful disinformation when necessary. He’s become quite the prolific tweeter since joining the platform in 2013. That said, Zaid is careful to emphasize that his experience with social media thus far has been a double-edged sword. The reach of social media makes whistleblowing more impactful, but right-leaning account-holders are often successful in counteracting the effects of whistleblowers’ attempts to inform the public. “[Social media] has enabled whistleblowers to be able to effectively put out their message, and for us to be able to facilitate our representation of that whistleblower and get out that message,” Zaid says. “But it has also served as an unfortunate effective tool to counter the whistleblower and spread malicious attacks.”

The moral dichotomy of technology

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ate last year, Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham reported on her show that Zaid had previously represented Democratic party politicians Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. Both Fox and 48

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Ingraham are aligned with the Republican party, also known as the GOP. Contrary to what Ingraham claimed, Zaid had never represented either party. His colleague Andrew Bakaj had interned for them during his college years, almost two decades earlier. Zaid took to Twitter the day following the report, composing a 13-part thread unequivocally debunking the accusations. “That alone caused her to apologize on air the next night, and a whole slew of news stories just about that fact. So clearly, it was an effective tool to counter these factual inaccuracies,” Zaid says. He adds that he doesn’t think it was done on purpose–he suspects someone just got sloppy when fact-checking Ingraham’s report. The intention behind the report, however, was clear: to paint Zaid as a left-wing activist and delegitimize whistleblowers. The fragmentation of the digital media landscape could be part and parcel of this problem. With so many small organizations competing for readership and scoops, and a few seemingly-legitimate actors actively publishing fake news, it’s fallen to the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter to suppress the worst of the misinformation. Of course, Twitter isn’t a media plat-

form, and it still fails to adequately represent the ideals of the Fourth Estate–ideals that have long characterized the role of the press in society. Apart from its right-leaning users, accounts with actual malicious intent have also sprouted on Twitter, speaking to a far-right audience that actively absorbs and spreads disinformation. Zaid’s primary concerns rest with how these accounts may be affecting the perception of whistleblowers. Additionally, his team discovered during the Ukraine whistleblower case that some of the accounts spreading disinformation and smear campaigns could in reality be hostile foreign governments masquerading as Americans. The demographic of the social media platform is part of what makes it so powerful, though dangerously radical at times. Twitter, Zaid says, is his megaphone of choice because it offers the ability to reach the majority of age groups across the spectrum. “[Twitter] has been both a boon and a curse,” he adds. In another technology integration, Zaid’s law practice has set up a route for whistleblowers to contact him securely through Tor. Tor (short for The Onion Router) is an Internet privacy tool that bounces users’ browsing data and location information through a network of com-


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Mark Zaid’s best practices for would-be whistleblowers • It’s inadvisable to remove classified documents from the workplace, particularly in the national security context, as it may leave one open to prosecution. • Similarly, try not to violate organizational rules (such as emailing work documents to a personal email address). Whistleblowers are almost always bound to endure attempts to discredit them, and knowingly breaking the rules could result in what Zaid calls “justifiable retaliation.” • Most importantly, one should talk to someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and in a position to give the would-be whistleblower advice on how to take things forward in their jurisdiction. That someone should probably be a lawyer rather than a journalist. This is because the anonymity of journalists and their sources often isn’t protected by law–whistleblowing through a journalist puts both parties at risk.

puters around the world called ‘relays,’ making it almost impossible to identify data sources or destinations, or user locations. While it’s a resource used widely by journalists, whistleblowers, and normal users who prioritize privacy, it’s also gained an unsavory reputation as a shield for criminal activity. As such, using Tor was a practical decision, but it poses other problems. ‘There’s good and bad things about it [...] It’s still not used very widely within most of the communities I deal with, so it takes someone additional time and understanding to engage in, and I’m sure it probably turned some people off. It turns me off, quite frankly,” he admits. Even in terms of secure communication services such as HushMail, server locations may render them dangerously fallible. Zaid recalls the high-profile 2010 case of former NSA employee Thomas Drake, who leaked classified documents via encrypted email service HushMail to a reporter. Ultimately, the FBI managed to subpoena Drake’s email archives through a court order in Canada, where HushMail’s servers are based, leading to Drake’s eventual indictment. In short, technology poses a unique catch-22 in Zaid’s line of work. While ser-

vices like HushMail and Tor are useful and much-needed tools offering some amount of safety, they are far from easy to use or invulnerable.

Times are changing

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n the past eight years or so, the media seems to have been awash with an astonishing number of high-profile whistleblowing cases, whether in leaks to the press or WikiLeaks, or in court. However, this might not be the case in reality. “I don’t get the sense that there are more whistleblowers now than there were previously,” Zaid muses. “I think what has changed is that many of the whistleblowers have been [accusing] very senior level people in the U.S. government, including the President of the United States.” The anomaly, he says, is that whistleblowers are higher-ranking officials, and involve the White House or the President directly, something he says he had never experienced before the Trump administration. The explosive nature of the allegations, combined with the identities of those accused, has served to attract more attention to such cases. Zaid’s work in this space is unique, and made possible because of strong U.S. legislation encouraging people to come for-

ward. In practice, however, he says public perception of whistleblowing can cut both ways, and it dimmed under the the Trump administration. “At least on paper, encouraging whistleblowers is something that the United States stands for, I think,” says Zaid. “Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to get closer to where it’s actually in practice, but Trump has set us steps back from that, and the question is going to be, how far back?” Zaid is fighting an uphill battle against attempts to discredit his work and his clients. He’s had the dubious honor of being personally name-checked by Trump at a campaign rally, an event which later saw him receive death threats from Trump supporters. But he’s had remarkable success in using Twitter to counter smear campaigns, and if anything, his resorting to social media may serve to highlight failings in the current media landscape. “I think there will always be a role for whistleblowers. And it should be a role that is applauded rather than condemned,” he says. “The system of government that that individual is associated with will make that distinction as to whether they’re applauded or condemned–and so will society around them.” Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Digital Editor. Spring 2021

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NOTHING BUT

NETWORK Basketball star Spencer Dinwiddie has ambitious plans for the future of fan engagement.

By NAYANTARA BHAT

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n the past few years, we’ve observed that influencer culture is one of the most powerful forces on the Internet. Personalities like social media star Charli D’Amelio make millions every year. Brands small and large have carried out influencer marketing campaigns with great success. And tech companies like Twitch, OnlyFans, and ByteDance, which facilitate engagement between influencers and fans, quietly take their own cut of the profits. It’s a thrumming, thriving ecosystem, and most people are eager to take advantage of the influencer Golden Age. But others, like Spencer Dinwiddie, think that the system is ready for disruption. His recently-launched fan engagement platform, Calaxy, plans to remove brands and intermediaries, and put the power back in the hands of stars and their fans. Dinwiddie is best known as a point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA team owned by Alibaba Co-founder Joe Tsai. A highly-acclaimed player, Dinwiddie was the second-highest scorer for his team in the 2019-2020 NBA season. He’s been described as a “chameleon” by two former coaches due to his ability to switch between various positions. He’s also been called a “cerebral” player–someone who’s always thinking carefully about his next move (CBS Sports). It’s these qualities, perhaps, which make Dinwiddie so well-suited to the entrepreneurial sphere. His passion for technology grew in tandem with his athletic excellence when he was in college, playing for the Colorado Buffaloes. By the end of college, he had invested in a friend’s influencer marketing platform. And in 2019, he co-founded a venture capital firm with a focus on investing in Black founders (PitchBook). Dinwiddie’s NBA career made him a star, but his strides in the technology and venture capital world make him a pioneer. His previous Twitter bio might make for the best self-portrait: “Just a Tech guy with a Jumper.” “Actually, I’ve been a geek my whole life,” he tells Jumpstart. “That’s the funny part about the whole story of me, going back to high school–you know, my second college choice was Harvard.” Dinwiddie’s journey certainly would have looked very different if he had taken up intellectual pursuits at Harvard instead of enrolling at the University of Colorado Boulder to play for the Buffaloes. He was 52

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Spencer Dinwiddie driving to the basket against Knicks guard Allonzo Trier during the first quarter of the NBA Preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center on October 3, 2018.

Dinwiddie’s NBA career made him a star, but his strides in the technology and venture capital world make him a pioneer. His Twitter bio might make for the best self-portrait: “Just a Tech guy with a Jumper.”


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scouted in the 2014 NBA draft, and went on to play for the Detroit Pistons before joining the Nets in 2016. But all the while, he says, he would avidly follow developments in the tech and venture capital industry, read about new technologies like machine learning, and watch TED Talks on such topics in his free time. After almost a decade, Dinwiddie is now putting his passion into action with Calaxy. His forays into the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain catalyzed his decision to forge ahead with his plans. He now has an ambitious vision for how fans will engage with their favorites: a platform that will allow influencers to sell shares in every-

thing they own–including their time and attention–directly to their fans.

Proof-of-concept: personal tokenization and DREAM Fan Shares

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hen the idea for Calaxy came to him, Dinwiddie knew that people would need time to come around to the concept of ‘human tokenization.’ He would have to prove to himself and the market that his plan could work. “Essentially, what we thought was the most logical leap was using [myself ] as proof of concept,” he says. “Coming

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out, putting my assets, my contract, on the blockchain in some form or fashion.” And that’s exactly what he did. Dinwiddie decided to tokenize his $34.4 million three-year NBA contract: break up its value into blockchain-based shares and sell them to investors on a newly-created platform, DREAM Fan Shares. He was locked in with the Nets for the first two years, but if he chose to take a higher-paying contract with another team in the third year, investors in his contract would make significant returns. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Dinwiddie announced the plan in October 2019, but in January 2020, was still negoSpring 2021

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tiating with the NBA. Put off by what it viewed as a plan encouraging investors to gamble on Dinwiddie’s success, the organization smothered the idea immediately, even threatening to ban him if he chose to move forward with it (The Block). This prompted Dinwiddie to rethink his initial plan. He ultimately launched DREAM Fan Shares in March 2020 in a modified form. Instead of issuing blockchain-backed tokens for a slice of his contract, he created a debt offering called SD26, secured by his assets and business interests. The round opened on March 16 and sold nine SD26 tokens at US$150,000 each. Nick Tomaino, Managing Partner of 1confirmation–a crypto fund backed by Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, and Mark Cuban–was one of the investors in the round. Brad Stephens, Managing Partner of Blockchain Capital, was another (Forbes). Despite the chaos of negotiations with the NBA and subsequent delays to the launch of the project, Dinwiddie had achieved what he originally intended. “In a lot of ways,” he says, “my contract and all the publicity was like a Trojan Horse to get in the door and help people know that [I’m] not crazy.” In other words, Dinwiddie’s proofof-concept gamble had paid off. He was now backed by crypto royalty and had undeniable evidence that there would be an appetite for financial products linked to ‘human assets’ like celebrities. The time was ripe to start work on Calaxy.

A new approach to fan engagement “

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hen you look at personal monetization, in a traditional social media sense as of right now, people don’t necessarily always effectively make money off of just being themselves,” Dinwiddie says. Currently, social media influencers earn by creating a persona around themselves or displaying some kind of special skill to gain followers. After they’ve gained a following, they’re able to earn donations, a cut of user subscription fees, or are directly paid by brands to endorse products or services to their followers. Influencers can earn incredibly well if they figure out the right content formula to attract followers. Tubefilter estimated the 2020 earnings of one of Twitch’s most popular livestreamers, xQcOW (4.2 million followers), at $1.9 million. The influ54

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encer marketing industry is projected to be worth upwards of $15 billion by 2022 (Forbes). Everyone wants a piece of this industry. Even Manny Pacquiao, boxing champion and the subject of Jumpstart’s last cover, launched a payments platform for social media influencers, brands, and fans in October 2020 (BBC). However, Dinwiddie is convinced that there are flaws in this industry to be exploited. “When you look at the current system of how fans can engage with their favorite influencers, or favorite creators, it’s a very broken top-down system, where there’s these intermediaries taking either too much of the recognition or too much of the cut,” he explains. Companies like ByteDance, Twitch, and OnlyFans earn through service fees and commission. OnlyFans, for instance, lets creators set their own subscription fees, from which the company takes a 20% cut (Influencer Marketing Hub). Such

platforms act as both a marketplace and a trusted intermediary handling the transfer of money. Calaxy (short for ‘creator galaxy’) would provide a direct connection, allowing fans to engage with creators in different ways. “I look at it in the context of doing the smallest thing like, ‘Hey, I’ll pay you $1 to follow me on Twitter,’ all the way to the hardest thing, which is, ‘I want to secure my NBA contract.’ I want to have that type of utility,” Dinwiddie explains. This would take place by allowing users to purchase blockchain-based tokens, which can be used to redeem interactions with creators and stars in the network. There are also plans in place for futures speculation on the app, as well as the inclusion of some dividend-producing personal shares (Forbes). Calaxy would earn through small service fees on transactions. In a sense, the app functions as a natural next step to the present system. Once


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Spencer Dinwiddie shooting a free throw during the first quarter of the NBA Preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center on October 3, 2018.

influencers have built their followings and paid their dues to the relevant social media platforms, they can get onto Calaxy and make money from pure star power. This is what makes Dinwiddie’s idea so clever: existing innovation in the influencer industry seeks to solve its current pain points, but Calaxy proposes to subvert the system entirely.

Everything in life is not necessarily going to make sense, but blockchain does.

Blockchain as the catalyst

Calaxy follows a good-old-fashioned startup premise: using technology to remove middlemen and make a system more efficient. Email did the same thing. But Dinwiddie is drawing from an old blueprint and using blockchain to give it an actual shot at working.

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Bowie Bonds, for instance, were an attempt back in 1997 to create financial securities linked to David Bowie’s discography. Fantex, a startup founded in 2012, created securities based on the assets of professional athletes. Neither of the two took off. The difference now is that blockchain technology makes it possible to create and track contracts and securities relating to a vast range of activities–even something as small as a contract to follow someone on Twitter. “Everything in life is not necessarily going to make sense, but blockchain does,” Dinwiddie told PitchBook in 2020. As he explains, his belief in this technology stems from “trustless trust”–blockchain’s use of encryption protocols and distributed ledger technology to replace trusted third-parties in verifying transactions. He also appreciates the “free-flowing liquidity” that blockchain offers. “Money just isn’t hampered by borders. It’s not friction-filled. Those things make a lot of sense to me. Why shouldn’t I be able to sell 1% of my house and gain liquidity in my asset, if that’s what I want to do?” he says. This concept has been put into practice before. For example, Hong Kongbased startup Liquefy (which happens to be the only partner to Calaxy from Asia) uses a process called securities tokenization to split the value of assets like real estate and fine art into shares which accredited investors can purchase.

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Similarly, Calaxy will encourage athletes, celebrities, and social media influencers to treat themselves as human assets, help them monetize their personalities and fan engagement activities, and do this all in a way that’s direct and seamless. Readers may now be wondering how the startup plans to verify transactions, store its cryptocurrency, and ensure that any promised services are provided to users. This is where Calaxy’s tech partnerships come into play. The entire platform is built on Hedera Hashgraph, a decentralized public network. Hedera gave Calaxy a grant in HBAR–its own cryptocurrency–to support the development and use of the app on its network. Unlike traditional blockchains, where one miner works to verify a block of transactions, Hedera miners verify transactions by collective consensus. Meanwhile, crypto exchange CoinBase is providing custodial services. Since Calaxy’s network is based on buying and transacting with crypto tokens, Calaxy needed a secure way to store the tokens. CoinBase will be taking care of this function by holding large volumes of crypto securely, similar to a bank. Calaxy’s solution fundamentally revolves around the ‘smart contract,’ which is free of human intervention. However, the smart contract needs relevant data in order to independently verify the upholding of contract terms. For this purpose, Dinwiddie partnered with ChainLink for its ‘oracle’ service. This will work as a market data provider akin to Bloomberg or Google Finance, providing information 56

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from outside the blockchain which will be used to keep track of contract deliverables. At the time of writing, Dinwiddie is in the middle of raising a Series A round for Calaxy, and has said in previous interviews that he’s aiming for a 9-figure valuation. A few other NBA players, two singers, and WNBA player Imani McGee-Stafford are already on board (Forbes).

Making a name as an athlete, entrepreneur, and investor

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hroughout this journey, Dinwiddie has proven himself a deep thinker with ideas that some might find outrageous. He’s far from the first NBA player to get involved with startups, but he’s also dived significantly deeper into the tech world than his compatriots with his work in blockchain. Legendary LA Lakers shooting guard, the late Kobe Bryant, was a renowned investor in his own right. His $6 million investment for a 10% stake in sports drink BodyArmor in 2014 is now worth over $200 million (ESPN). Lakers point guard LeBron James formed media company SpringHill Co., worth $100 million, earlier this year. Other NBA-related investors include Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala, and Stephen Curry. Dinwiddie’s pursuits, in contrast, have skewed much further to the ‘deep tech’ side of startups. But he says that within the NBA, there’s a strong brotherhood in which players come to each other to gain insights on business ventures investing. “There’s a lot of knowledge to be

gained from everybody, because everybody’s trying to break through that ceiling to figure out what’s next and push the envelope,” he adds. In his new role as an entrepreneur and venture capital investor, his basketball reputation precedes him in many discussions. This, he says, is great in terms of deal-flow, as people “love the star power catch” his investment comes with, but being an athlete also makes it harder to get taken seriously as an intellectual. “You know, when I first started talking about blockchain, people were like, ‘Man, there’s no way he’s serious, he’s just trying to make a little bit of money in Bitcoin,’” Dinwiddie says. Staying on top of changes in the industry and being able to show some learning to others in the crypto space was the key to turning things around. After that, he says, things started to take off–both from the deal-flow side and in terms of people respecting his expertise and opinions. He has since invested in crypto developer Dapper Labs, and continues to source other partnerships and deals. After all this, though, Dinwiddie is confident that he prefers building to investing–ever the quintessential entrepreneur. “It reminds me so much of putting the work in with basketball,” he reflects. “You know, I think when you put the work in and keep your heart in the right place, you always have a chance to succeed. And then when the game comes again, it should be easy because of all the work you put in.” Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Digital Editor.


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The Luxury Car Industry Will Not Be Defeated by COVID-19 Mercedes Benz Thailand CEO Roland Folger explains the factors behind the prestige car industry’s unique resilience. By BRIAN KENG

“We in the luxury industry are a little bit more resilient than, for instance, the entry industry would be if you look into how sensitive to spending your customers are.” of the impact on other sectors. For example, clientele running businesses in sectors that were hit particularly hard by the pandemic became less inclined to invest in a new car. “Hotels that used to be, especially in Thailand, a large clientele for us [...] have basically very much shut down all of their spendings on increasing or renewing their car fleets,” says Folger. In a nutshell, there are a lot of different influences that affect the automotive business. “The whole question is how long will this last? And how will the future of our businesses be?” he adds.

Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

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he coronavirus pandemic has had a ripple effect on the global economy. While some sectors like ecommerce and gaming have experienced a boom, others like the travel and automotive industries saw crippling declines in demand and sales. As countries shut down their borders and implemented lockdowns, the automotive industry first saw its supply chains disrupted (Deloitte). Disruptions in exports of Chinese automotive parts, manufacturing interruptions across Europe, and closures of assembly lines in the U.S. plagued the sector. Compounding the problem, the demand for cars fell drastically amid stringent movement restrictions imposed during the first half of 2020, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. Consequently, the impact of COVID-19 was felt across the automotive sector, and the luxury cars segment was not immune.

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Impact of COVID-19 on the prestige car segment

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ccording to Mercedes-Benz Thailand President, Managing Director, and CEO Roland Folger, apart from the disruption in supply chain, the luxury cars industry also witnessed a sharp decline in sales during the initial lockdown period. This was mainly because people could not access the dealerships where they usually obtain information about cars. Moreover, there’s been a psychological impact on customers that has affected the demand for luxury cars, he says. Business owners are the usual buyers of prestige cars. As the economy took a downturn, these customers contemplated downsizing or shutting their business, or laying off employees. Understandably, it wasn’t a good time to buy a new car. Furthermore, the extent of the impact on the prestige car industry is a byproduct

Why the luxury car industry is more resilient

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he luxury car industry owes its resilience to its customer base. In fact, the luxury industry is even more resilient than the entry-level automotive market, says Folger. “We in the luxury industry are a little bit more resilient than, for instance, the entry industry would be if you look into how sensitive to spending your customers are,” he says. “These are normally more affluent people that have a lot more financial reserves than the mass-market, typical customers.” Folger adds that the key lies in differentiating between luxury vehicles and regular vehicles. As long as that distinction is clear, he says the industry will survive. According to him, the decision to purchase luxury cars is driven by several factors. For one, vehicles are not always bought strictly for transportation–


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subconscious cues and status symbols can play a big role. “If you arrive at a hotel in a normal mass market car, or in a Mercedes, you get a different treatment,” says Folger. “And that response that you automatically get from people that have never met you, that naturally drives also your decision on what kind of vehicle you would purchase.” Moreover, the decision is also driven by more rational factors like the residual or resale value of luxury cars, functionality, safety, and comfort, among others. “On top of that, you have also [...] emotional appeals and aspects. And that’s a question of, you maybe want to differentiate within your peer group,” he adds. “You want to show that you have a little bit more elaborate taste, you know more about the background of your vehicle.” In the past, Mercedes Benz has been perceived as a highly traditional older brand, Folger says, but as the company has evolved, it’s become more attractive to a younger demographic. With new designs, functionalities, and customer experiences, the brand seems to be able to connect with youth more easily than before. “Part of that is certainly driven by supplements like AMG that make us much more sexy and attractive than the typical, more sedate sedan type of vehicle,” he says. AMG is a high-performance subsidiary of Mercedes Benz. Being relevant to the young generation

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Photos courtesy of Brian Keng is a step in the right direction, especially since the age of Mercedes’ customers is decreasing worldwide, Folger adds.

Adjusting to the new normal

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he pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalization and digital adoption among consumers in light of infection risks through physical contact. The luxury car industry is no different. “We always call [COVID-19] our accelerator button. So, things that we had planned to do anyway, but maybe over the course of the next two years, we now

crammed into more or less three or four months,” says Folger. Some of these changes that were implemented include health and safety measures like sanitization and temperature checks, online training for dealers (which has had the added benefit of reducing costs), helping secure financing for the less affluent customers, and digital sales.

Time to recover from the pandemic

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he luxury automotive sector has recovered from several past crises, like the 2008 GFC and the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Citing these examples, Folger says that he expects the prestige car sector to take four to five years to recover from the pandemic. However, he also believes that the recovery could occur faster in Asia. This is because China has grown into a “force to be reckoned with,” and is pulling out of the crisis much quicker than other economies. Provided the country does not go through a new infection wave, Folger believes China’s recovery could boost other economies in the Southeast Asian region. Though Folger acknowledges that the situation is rife with uncertainties, at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic it’s a pure ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario. The luxury car sector has come this far, and if it continues innovating and adapting, there should be nothing in the way of a strong revival. Brian Keng is a car enthusiast and CEO of Enovate Motors Philippines. Additional reporting by Monika Ghosh. Spring 2021

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early 1,400 adults, mostly super athletic males, were isolated away from the outside world for almost three months, in a faraway, man-made setting. In this artificial world, famous attractions, habitats, and cultures from all over the world were replicated, and participants battled against each other to stay until the very end. The last men standing were crowned the champions, literally. This is not the Ancient Roman Colosseum or a real-life version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. This was the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the age of COVID-19.

COVID-19 and the professional sports world

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he pandemic changed our lives in 2020, particularly with respect to activities and businesses that involve large crowds of people. Unsurprisingly, the professional sports world has been hit especially hard by the virus. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were pushed to summer 2021, the U.K. Open Golf Championship was canceled, and numerous high-profile professional sports leagues suspended their games and events at the height of the pandemic.

The NBA “Bubble”

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Keeping Your Head in the Game Professional sports in the age of COVID-19 By YUN CHEN

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s the spread of COVID-19 slowed down in the summer of 2020, sports leagues started to resume their games with necessary anti-virus measures. Four out of the five major football leagues in Europe restarted their games in empty stadia in July 2020. Despite huge losses in planned ticket sales, the move was made with the interests of public health in mind, and to salvage the billions of dollars in TV broadcasting license fees that would otherwise be lost. With lockdowns and public safety at stake, the NBA came up with the ‘NBA Bubble’: isolating players, coaches, and staff in a secure location for the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season, minimizing contact with the outside world. This would prove to be a slam dunk: a highly-efficient, all-work, no-distraction, no-virus environment for basketball entertainment production. The Walt Disney World Resort was uniquely qualified to host the games. Disney World wasn’t open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, and it was big enough to house NBA per-


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NBA Campus in Orlando. Photo courtesy of NBA Photos

sonnel, complete with walls, gates, and security systems to create an effective isolation zone.

How the NBA Bubble worked

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he top twenty-two out of thirty NBA teams were invited to participate in the Season Restart. All players and staff were required to test for COVID-19 before entering the campus, and left only after they were eliminated. To prevent breach of the Bubble’s primary rule–unauthorized contact with the outside world–the NBA even set up a “hotline” so players could anonymously report offenders. Rule-breakers faced disciplinary measures from fines, to suspensions, to removal from the campus. The NBA spent a reported US$180 million to build the Bubble and keep it running. The league used ten basketball courts inside the Bubble–three for official matches, and seven for practices. In an attempt to replicate the energy and fan participation of real games, the NBA lined the arenas with 17-foot LED

The NBA has long been at the forefront of adopting new trends and technologies, and the Bubble era was no exception.

screens, displaying the faces of hundreds of fans watching the games live at home. In a unique twist, the NBA also mixed the live-broadcasted sounds of fan cheering

with pre-recorded crowd noises, reminiscent of a typical American sitcom. Sports is indeed entertainment after all. Despite the effort put into the setup, naturally, some players still had trouble getting used to it. On the other hand, some young players did exceptionally well in the Restart games, such as Jamal Murray, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson. Some people attributed their uncommonly good performances to the lack of fan pressure in the Bubble–but no one can really prove this right or wrong.

Business in the Bubble

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or most players, Bubble life was strictly business, and business didn’t always have to mean basketball. Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat star forward and one of the best-performing players in the Bubble, took up an entrepreneurial endeavor. Given the lack of premium coffee on the campus, Butler started his own coffee shop, Big Face Coffee, from his hotel room. He charged US$20 a cup. Butler’s business boomed for a while Spring 2021

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despite the steep price tag, mostly because it had a monopoly on premium handmade coffee. Customers complained about the price, but they lacked substitutes. But like any free economy, competitors soon emerged from the woodwork–Miami Heat’s assistant athletic trainer Brandon Gilliam started a competing coffee business and undercut Butler with $5 coffee. Gilliam even named his business Small Face Coffee. This friendly business rivalry apparently did not interfere with the Heat’s performance: the team ultimately advanced to the NBA Finals.

No stranger to technology

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he NBA has long been at the forefront of adopting new trends and technologies, and the Bubble era was no exception. This year, thanks to partnerships with Microsoft and Facebook, Restart audiences could enjoy an enhanced VR viewing experience. Through Facebook, Oculus became the NBA’s official marketing and VR partner. The NBA also worked with Microsoft to create a unique virtual fan experience. Each game, the ‘home’ team could select fans to virtually attend the games, displayed in the arena on massive LED screens around the court and broadcast on television. Selected fans had to abide by the fan code of conduct, which included refraining from offensive behavior or displaying commercial signs. Under the Microsoft Together Mode, each virtual fan saw a screen divided into

two sections, half of which telecast the game ahead of the TV broadcast, and the other half displaying other fans in the same section. Virtual fans could even hear these others, bringing about a communal experience similar to that of a real NBA game. Interestingly, one fan even brought a pet goat to a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards, which apparently was not prohibited under the fan code of conduct.

An NBA success story

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n October 12th, 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers claimed the 2019-20 NBA championship title, which also marked the

end of the NBA Season Restart. 22 teams played a total of 172 games over three months without a single player, league official, or team staffer testing positive for COVID-19 after entering the Bubble. This was all the more impressive considering that the U.S. had tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily during the same period. The system proved to be a great success in the face of adversity. The NBA not only salvaged billions of dollars in broadcasting fees and kept everyone involved free of the virus, but it also set a pioneering example for the professional sports world in terms of sports entertainment operations and production in the age of COVID-19.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yun is a popular video blogger and part-time writer. Yun graduated from Franklin & Marshall College before getting his J.D. degree from Cornell Law School. He has held positions at a top international law firm prior to joining a major investment bank. Yc934@cornell.edu NBA Campus in Orlando. Photos courtesy of NBA Photos 62

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cycle of such products, thereby bringing more benefits to travelers. Take Disneyland for example. It initially opened in 1955, meaning that as of 2020, it’s been a standing tourism institution for 65 years. Even after such a long period of operation, Disneyland still attracts thousands of tourists. The product life cycle for a man-made tourism destination seems to be unreasonably long here, but Disney has repeatedly dipped into its deep pockets to invest in tech. Most recently, Disneyland invested $1 billion in developing MyMagic+, a technology project encompassing wearables, data collection, and crowd control tech to completely optimize the way visitors experience the theme park. The new system helped the park accommodate 3,000 additional daily guests around the 2013 Christmas holiday season (Bloomberg).

How Technology Has ‘Hacked’ the Travel Industry Innovation is no longer optional in the tourism industry By ELAINE SHIU

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s an emerging service industry, the tourism industry is increasingly closely related to technology. Innovations in tourism technology have promoted innovation in tourism consumption as well. These changes, and the shifts in power in the tourism industry that came along with them, have prompted incumbent players in the tourism industry to usher in their own changes as well. Tourism technology innovation refers to the combination of new science and technology with the characteristics and market demand of the tourism industry. Through stages of research, development, engineering, commercialization, and industrialization, technological integrations in the tourism industry have gradually increased, and so too has the power of technology in promoting and enabling tourism. Innovation in the travel and tourism space can take the shape of business model innovation, product innovation, and internal operations model innovation, as well as personnel training innovation. Much of this is guided by changing consumer needs. When it comes to business

model innovation for instance, companies must incorporate the social needs of the new era (such as sustainability), consumer demands, and new trends in the industry. These are built upon the foundation of the original business model to achieve higher social and economic benefits. Ignoring this process means failing to satisfy consumer demand–and falling behind competitors. Travel and tourism are comprehensive social activities that are produced under certain social and economic conditions and develop along with social and economic development. In a sense, they are symbols of social progress. In today’s world, science and technology are the primary productive forces–in other words, modern technology plays an important role in economic and social development. Thus is it only natural that they are also playing a role in the development of “modern tourism.” Science and technology investment has prolonged the life cycle of some tourism products. Tourism destinations (or tourism products) have historically experienced a process of growth and maturity. This law held until investments in science and technology made it possible to extend the life

Technology has greatly improved the safety of tourism products

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hile modern tourism needs are very diverse, one thing remains constant for all travelers: the safety standards they demand from activities and destinations. This is true especially for certain adventurous tourism activities such as bungee jumping, mountain climbing, or river rafting, which are popular among young tourists, in spite of (or perhaps because of ) the risk of sudden accidents. Operators must take the right precautionary measures to ensure the safety of tourists and minimize risks. To do this, we must rely on technology. More sophisticated methods of calculation and design now go into the creation of professional supplies such as bungee jumping ropes, mouth rings, carbine rings, and foot covers. With the emphasis on innovation at home and abroad, the tourism industry has also seized the day and actively taken innovation as its own opportunity to broaden and shape the industry. It’s a powerful weapon to increase market share and improve customer loyalty. Through the close integration of tourism and technology, it is possible to directly and quickly change internal information transmission pathways in the tourism industry. It will help to improve the economic equality of the tourism industry, protect the rights and interests of consumers, as well as increase confidence in the future development of tourism. Elaine is a serial entrepreneur in fashion jewelry, traveltech, and innovation technology. Spring 2021

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States, Startups, and the Climate Crisis Climate action demands coaction between administrators and innovators By SHARON LEWIS

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nterest in cleantech and climate tech has ebbed and flowed since 2006. In its 2020 comeback, flashes of the first cleantech boom have emerged once again, marked by lavish funding rounds, a surge in the popularity of ESG initiatives, and renewed climate commitments from corporations and governments–but there is little to indicate whether this second wave is here to stay. In 2006, venture capitalists poured US$1.75 billion into the cleantech industry, and nearly three times that amount in 2008, a report by MIT Energy Initiative suggests. By 2011, cleantech startups had ploughed through $25 billion in venture funding. And yet, more than half of over 100 energy startups launched between 2006 and 2011 failed, and over 90% of

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Cleantech and the larger umbrella of climate technologies is picking up pace once again. cleantech startups funded after 2007 were unable to return their initial investment capital (Quartz, MIT Energy Initiative). The allure of cleantech dissipated almost as quickly as it had arrived.

Now, cleantech and the larger umbrella of climate technologies is picking up pace once again. Funding surged between 2013 and 2019, when climate tech startups banked $60 billion (PwC). About twothirds of the funding went into deals valued at over $100 million. Climate tech special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have outperformed the overall SPAC market, posting returns of 131% as compared to 50% respectively (Climate Tech VC). Moreover, big investors such as Softbank and Sequoia Capital are rapidly accelerating climate tech investments, and Big Tech companies and governments have reiterated their commitments to decarbonizing (MIT Technology Review). The Biden administration has taken rapid


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action on climate change since the President’s inauguration on January 20, including rejoining the Paris agreement and signing a series of executive orders targeted at the energy sector (BBC). The question of the hour, however, is not how long this boom will last, but what is needed to sustain it. Climate action has been a priority for years, but efforts have been fractured, with governments, corporations, startups, non-profit bodies, and other agencies working independent of each other. MIT Energy Initiative’s 2016 report noted that cleantech startups were illiquid, expensive to scale, high-risk, low-reward, and not favored for acquisition, all of which resulted in the collapse of the earlier cleantech boom. It also highlighted an important message for up-and-coming cleantech startups: that cleantech is ill-fitted for the traditional venture capital model, and needs a “new generation of public and private support” to bring its technological potential to fruition. In his State of the Planet speech in December 2020, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “We have a chance to not simply reset the world economy but to transform it,” calling the challenge of climate change “an epic policy test.” One of the starting points for this transformation is for policy and innovation to find an effective intersection point.

Synergy in climate action

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nergyX Solutions is a North American energy efficiency solutions startup whose software helps to optimize energy costs and improve the energy efficiency of commercial and residential properties. The company licenses its software to utilities and other clients based on three philosophies: conserving energy, empowering utilities to provide value to their customers, and empowering those customers with tools to save energy. Tech ties it all together at EnergyX. The company focuses on retrofitting buildings with the tech to help them adopt efficient energy. Machine learning models help the company to determine which buildings would benefit the most from retrofitted improvements. The company currently works with 16-17 utility companies across the U.S. and Europe, and is growing 100% year-on-year, Co-founder and CEO Nishaant Sangaavi says. One of EnergyX’s projects is with a large, privately-owned Canadian gas utility in Canada, which has been undertak-

ing retrofitting programs to comply with government mandates. EnergyX has been working on the utility company’s portfolio of over three million buildings, many of which are low-income housing or are in rural areas, to identify which ones are suitable for deep retrofitting. It then helps the utility source contractors, leverage available incentives and rebates, and trickle down the benefits of efficient energy use to the people who live in the building. “My hope, over time as we start working in different countries and tackling different building types and energy efficiency programs, is we can be brought to the table when there are new policies and new regulations [up for discussion], so that we can talk about what we’re learning, and how we’ve been able to scale in different places, and bring that home to that specific geography or policy,” Sangaavi says. EnergyX demonstrates how an innovative company can help bridge the distance between policy-level directives and ground-level actionables. But this relation-

ship works two ways, with support from the government trickling down to startups as well. The Government of Canada, for instance, has extended millions in financing to climate tech startups through various funds, a spokesperson from Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada said via email. Programs such as the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program and Sustainable Development Technology Canada support early-stage cleantech innovators in Canada. Other programs like the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative aim to attract investors to solutions that fall outside the scope of traditional initiatives. Under its strengthened climate plan, the Canadian Government has also committed CA$750 million (nearly US$590 million) over five years to support startups and help them scale. “[Cleantech] plays a critical role in meeting Canada’s 2030 emission reduction target and fulfilling Canada’s commitment Spring 2021

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to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. We cannot achieve these ambitious goals without the contributions made by innovative Canadian startups in a range of technologies,” the spokesperson said. Adding that cleantech startups were a “central part” of the Canadian government’s vision, the spokesperson noted that cleantech is a massive growth segment from the standpoint of economic development and job generation for Canada. Even globally, switching to low-carbon and sustainable growth could result in economic gains of $26 trillion, and create more than 5 million new jobs by 2030 (Global Commission on the Economy and Climate).

It takes an ecosystem

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ome industries, like food, are changing rapidly because of transformation from within. Others, like coal, are facing pressure from external sources.

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Sustainable tech in mobility and food, for instance, gained crucial traction in 2020 as electric vehicles and lab-grown meat continued to gain momentum. Changing U.S. policy regarding its participation in the Paris Climate Agreement exacerbated the furor surrounding the climate crisis. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Quartz reports that the fossil fuel industry came under pressure in 2020, not only due to the global pandemic but also because of policy-level urgency regarding climate change. This in turn has opened a cache of new opportunities for renewable energy and energy efficiency startups. Innovation is no silver bullet, but it is a pivotal facet of orchestrating a larger, collaborative effort toward combating climate change. To make use of innovation, however, it must first be nurtured. “The Government of Canada recognizes that the [cleantech] sector faces challenges that are hard for startups to

overcome. Projects are often capital intensive, offer returns on investment over a longer time horizon when compared to incumbent technologies, and, as a result, can be associated with higher levels of risk,” ISED’s spokesperson explained in their email. Sangaavi concurs. He points out that the agility, problem-solving ability and exponential growth opportunities that startups promise are unmatched by larger organizations and corporations. At the same time, however, they need an “even playing field” to be able to compete. It seems straightforward, but as Sangaavi explains, creating this playing field is an intricate task. There are several factors that need to be addressed, such as access to policymakers and officials, consistent climate policy over successive governments, funding and other support structures to help companies meet policy directives, and overall transparency in the dealings between governments and startups. Sangaavi lauds the Canadian government for its support of cleantech startups, especially during the pandemic. Canada ranked among the top five countries in the 2017 Global Cleantech Innovation Index. At the same time, it also featured far below, at Rank 55, on the Climate Change Performance Index 2020, despite a strong climate policy. The Trudeau administration also faced massive backlash last year from both indigenous communities and climate activists because of a CA$6.6 billion (US$5 billion) Coastal GasLink project (The Guardian). If such contradictions exist in a country known for sweeping natural vistas and progressive politics, it stands to reason that these disparities are widespread across the globe. Policy and technology–as the earlier cleantech boom and bust showed–are both inadequate solutions for climate change when applied independently. The resolution of the climate crisis lies within a Byzantine web of networks and decisions, one that can only be untangled by cohesive, collaborative action between governments and startups. Due to their disruptive technologies and ability to rapidly scale solutions, startups offer enormous potential for tackling climate change–but the strings are ultimately still held by the government. By meeting in the middle and putting forth a joint effort, these two forces can collaboratively redraw the next frontier of climate tech. Sharon is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.


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Neutrality in the Echo Chamber Wikipedia’s role in a fragmented and confusing information landscape By NAYANTARA BHAT

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n a year with a U.S. presidential election and a pandemic, what we needed was reliable and consistent information. What we got was quite the opposite. We live in an age where information lies inches from our fingertips. There is both good and bad in this; the availability of free knowledge is remarkable, but misinformation is a serious concern. Fake news has been a well-acknowledged problem for years, but tackling it has been an experience akin to fighting a hydra: every time one head is chopped off, another two grow in its place. Twitter, for instance, began adding fact-check labels to tweets containing misleading or disputed information in May 2020. The labels prompted users to ‘get the facts,’ and were mostly applied to tweets regarding COVID-19 and–notably–those of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Despite this, unconfirmed rumors continued to run rife. Further, many of the far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, and political conservatives formerly on Twitter deemed the company’s actions ‘censorship’ and mass-migrated to Parler, a 2018-founded microblogging site which sells itself as a ‘free speech’ social network (The New York Times). 68

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But for those who don’t get their news exclusively from social media, there’s one Web destination that always seems reliable, a trusted port-of-call in the midst of uncertainty: Wikipedia. Every year, Wikipedia articles accumulate billions of views, and its most-viewed pages act as a miniature of the year’s major events. In 2020, unsurprisingly, the pandemic and the U.S. election dominated the list. According to the free Wikimedia web traffic analytics tool Pageviews, the page ‘2019-20 coronavirus pandemic’ was the third-most viewed Wikipedia article in 2020, with over 39.5 million views. ‘Donald Trump’ took the top spot, with 52.5 million views. Entries lower down the list follow similar lines; the ‘Kamala Harris’ and ‘Joe Biden’ pages both follow directly after ‘2019-20 coronavirus pandemic,’ and ‘Spanish flu’ sits in 12th position. The question to answer now is whether these results also show that some people, at least, were attempting to find unbiased information. The 17th most-viewed page is an interesting case study: it’s about Japanese scientist and immunologist Tasuku Honjo, who was falsely quoted as saying the novel coronavirus had been manufactured in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. One can only hope that all those who

The availability of free knowledge is remarkable, but misinformation is a serious concern.

Co-founder Jimmy Wales has frequently spoken out about the dangers of social media algorithms in the past.


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viewed the article were looking for proof, one way or the other.

The current social media business model needs change

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ikipedia Co-founder Jimmy Wales has frequently spoken out about the dangers of social media algorithms in the past–the algorithms in particular, because they were deliberate choices on the part of Facebook and its contemporaries to hold users’ attention and sell more ads. Twitter is also a breeding ground for misinformation: one 2018 MIT study found that fake stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories. “What I always say is, if your stereotypical crazy uncle is posting anti-vaccine materials to friends and family on Facebook, that’s not really Facebook’s problem,” Wales tells Jumpstart in an interview at Web Summit 2020. The danger, he says, is that Facebook’s algorithm gives people saying ‘outrageous’ things an elevated platform and creates an environment where people only see their own beliefs reflected back at them. The business model, he says, “keeps people on the site, keeps them seeing ads, but it’s very unhealthy for the world. It’s not a harmonious experience for anyone.”

A few weeks after this interview, Twitter and Facebook banned Trump from their platforms, a move they had avoided making for years. However, Wales is convinced that social media companies will need to make bigger, sweeping changes to ensure their continued survival. “If people are starting to believe that you are destroying society, and leading us to a very, very bad place, that’s not good for your business in the long run,” he says. “So you need to really think, is Twitter even going to survive for five years? Is Facebook going to survive for five years? If people become convinced that you’re actually breaking the world, people will find other alternatives.”

Staying neutral in a polarized world

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ales credits Wikipedia’s reputation as a neutral source of information to its non-profit structure. Volunteer editors from around the globe work to edit, refine, and add sources to articles, and the site has a sophisticated internal criteria for moderating edits from the greater population. This runs counter to much of social media and digital media, where pay-perclick ad revenue is still the primary business model for many, and holding users’

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attention is of paramount importance. “The nature of Wikipedia is it’s very human-oriented,” Wales says. “There’s no incentive for anybody–any of the Wikipedians–to optimize for outrage and clickbait headlines.” That said, Wikipedia itself isn’t always squeaky clean, and nor does it always stay clear of political or gendered controversy. It created a stink in 2020 for neglecting to create a page for Theresa Greenfield, a U.S. Senatorial candidate for the state of Iowa (Wired). This resulted in a long-drawnout battle about whether Greenfield met the encyclopedia’s standards for “notability,” a criterion which defines whether people deserve dedicated articles. Wikipedia also attracted the ire of a Hindu right-wing blog, OpIndia, which has written several articles railing against the website for what it perceives as biased editing of its own page and multiple other pages tied to the volatile Hindu-Muslim relationship in India. In both cases, Wales got personally involved to resolve the dispute–a rare occurrence. “Sometimes you find that, actually, this isn’t as neutral as it could be, or this is a problem in our rules that led to a situation where people aren’t correcting something that needs to be corrected,” Wales explains. In other cases, he adds, it becomes clear quickly that third parties are attempting to push their own agendas. The challenge, he says, lies in presenting the information “...in a way that acknowledges the uncertainty in the world, while at the same time giving people the whole story.” To that end, Wales recommends that the first step for anyone trying to break out of the cycle of belief-reinforcement on social media should read a variety of high-quality left- and right-leaning news sources, and exercise critical judgement. “After a very difficult year, I think that a lot of people have learned a lot about what’s wrong in the world. And so now I just encourage people to be thoughtful and to try and work towards better solutions,” he says. And as for Wikipedia, Wales has a firm idea for the role the website will play going forward. “I hope that we are a calm, quiet, solid alternative,” he says, “so that instead of people screaming at each other on Twitter, or on TV news, you come to Wikipedia to get the background, and to really reflect and assess all the evidence from all angles.” Nayantara is Jumpstart’s Digital Editor.

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Mind Over Matter Singaporean startup Mind Palace uses VR for reminiscence therapy, helping dementia patients enjoy a little escapism.

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e’ve seen virtual reality (VR) in gaming, in fashion, in training, and in sport. It’s captured our imaginations through everything from Monsters, Inc. to Black Mirror. But Singapore-based VR startup Mind Palace is putting this futuristic technology to therapeutic use: helping dementia patients remember their pasts and feel closer to their loved ones. The startup is using VR as a form of reminiscence therapy, a technique that uses senses and objects to help dementia patients remember familiar faces and places from their past. Not only does this help with memory, it also provides a soothing influence that can reduce stress and feelings of isolation among elderly nursing home residents. The seed that became Mind Palace took root after Founder Eugene Soh took his VR goggles to a nursing home upon the request of a connection from his creative VR startup, Dude Studios. It was a rewarding and eye-opening experience for the residents, but the interface was not optimized for the purpose and was little more than a novelty. This irked him. “Being a developer and a programmer, there was an itch in my heart to go and solve this problem,” says Soh. “So I went to develop my own app to make it easier for [nursing home residents] to experience VR.” The prototype that Soh put together ultimately gained so much traction that he spun it off into what became Mind 70

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Palace. It’s now a non-profit that actively formulates new ways to access and exercise dementia patients’ memories using virtual reality.

Spreading wonder with VR

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raditional reminiscence therapy involves showing patients old photographs of family and places from their past. This exercises the memory and can help them feel calmer, since as Soh explains, late-stage dementia patients are often confused and scared by the present. In Mind Palace’s VR reminiscence therapy sessions, patients are shown places in old Singapore that they might have vis-

ited in the past. This can trigger memories that may be attached to sensory cues like sounds and colors. As the patients become immersed in VR Singapore, Soh asks them questions about what they are seeing, gently initiating conversations and triggering memories. “One example is how this lady, when we brought her back to Chinatown, she started talking about how she would be shopping at Chinatown and haggling with the store owners about items,” Soh recalls. “Once she managed to haggle down to a specific price that she wanted, she would say, ‘Oh, I’ll think about it.’” The VR session had triggered such a nuanced, intimate memory that even the


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“Sometimes they have excursions, but we want to make experiences like this easier for them, so that they can visit even further places. And that solution was with VR.” home residents, while preparing a steaming plate of chicken rice. “For them it feels very personal, as if it’s one-on-one [and] he’s making chicken rice for them,” says Soh. “Then, while they are watching him and the chicken rice, they start to smell the chicken rice too. They don’t know why they can smell it. They think the technology is so good that they can smell it at the end of the session.” Once Chan presented the chicken rice virtually, he asked the residents to take off their goggles. The residents were surprised to find a steaming plate of chicken rice in front of them. Soh had hidden the chicken packets in another room and placed them in front of the residents while they were engrossed in the session. While the residents were both amazed and touched by the gesture, Soh understood the session’s real impact a week later. Usually, dementia patients do not remember him after a session. But a week after the chicken rice session, the residents not only remembered him, but wanted to know if there was going to be food in the next session as well.

A timely pivot woman’s daughter, present at the time of the session, was hearing about it for the first time. Such examples serve to validate Mind Palace’s approach: though the therapy doesn’t always work, when it does, the results can be astonishingly heartwarming. One particular session is a standout in Soh’s mind. “When I was asking [the patient] the questions, he was reading out the route, the street name, the roads to me. The therapist and the nurse, they were looking at me with wide eyes, like I did something wrong,” says Soh. But when the session ended, Soh learned that the patient, who had so clearly been naming roads and landmarks,

usually never spoke above a mumble. The nurse and therapist were stunned to hear him speaking confidently for the very first time. However, Soh cautions that VR is not a miracle cure for dementia: at present, it can simply help calm patients and help them to remember things better. In keeping with traditional reminiscence therapy, which involves all the five senses, Soh also incorporated environmental scents into one of the Mind Tour episodes. That particular recording was of Singapore’s Michelin-starred street hawker stall Hawker Chan, run by Chef Chan Hon Meng. Soh asked Chan to talk to the camera as if he were speaking to nursing

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ccording to Soh, Mind Palace’s goal is to provide “escapism” for nursing home residents who may feel cooped up. “Sometimes they have excursions, but we want to make experiences like this easier for them, so that they can [visit] even further places. And that solution was with VR,” says Soh. The nursing homes usually buy a few headsets that are sold at cost, since Mind Palace is a non-profit organization. Since there aren’t enough headsets to go around, they are therefore shared between the patients. But late last year, Soh discovered a glaring issue with this system. “After doing a few sessions, my headSpring 2021

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sets were getting gross, and they were getting smelly,” he says. “And whenever I was updating new software, when I put it to my own face, my eyebrows started to itch.” Soh tried the easiest solution first: he washed the foam pads on the headsets which come in contact with skin. But the goggles still irritated the skin around his eyes. “Then we also tried all sorts of hygiene methods where we put a hygiene mask on the user first and then put the headset,” he says. But even this was not a satisfac-

tory solution, since Soh remained worried about the spread of conjunctivitis and other diseases. Soh’s priority was to ensure the safety of the elderly patients, who are more susceptible to disease due to their age. Without feeling too remorseful about the sunk costs of his VR headsets, Soh pivoted to create immersive VR rooms. In January, long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Mind Palace finished building its first immersive VR room in an NTUC Health nursing home. When

the pandemic’s spread called for social distancing and contactless technologies, the immersive room became even more useful. Despite being called an ‘immersive room,’ VR headsets still provide a more immersive effect. However, Soh believes the immersive rooms are much safer for vulnerable elderly patients. His goal is to improve the immersive rooms and enable them to track individual residents’ progress. To that end, he’s also incorporated an element of gamification. Alongside the travel experiences, Soh has built basic games into the rooms which encourage exercise. If residents are only able to reach the second level in the first week, but reach the fifth or sixth level after a few weeks, they’ve shown physical improvement. Soh wants to utilize this performance data to keep patients’ families abreast of their relatives’ progress. For Soh, the ultimate goal is to support and treat dementia patients and elderly nursing home residents. With no profit motive to distract from this vision, Mind Palace has the freedom to keep innovating, exploring emerging technologies, and above all, improving the lives of those who are so often overlooked. Monika is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.

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FEATURES FOUNDER STORIES

Bridging the Gap for African Women in Tech and Business Serial entrepreneur Anie Akpe shares her journey, her motivations, and how she’s helping the Black community break barriers By REETHU RAVI

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espite the strides the labor industry is making in diversity and inclusion, women continue to be drastically under-represented in the tech field. The case is even starker in Africa. According to UNDP Africa, women constitute only 30% of professionals in the tech industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. Anie Akpe, a trailblazer in the mortgage and banking industry with over 20 years of experience, is breaking these barriers and at the same time, helping African women overcome the gender gap by building a holistic ecosystem of support. A serial entrepreneur, she is the founder of IBOM LLC and Innov8tiv Magazine, as well as the African Women In Technology (AWIT) event series. For Akpe, who is Nigerian, pursuing a career in entrepreneurship and technology was far from the traditional path of becoming a doctor, lawyer, nurse, or banker. Akpe’s parents, who couldn’t fully

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“I know that there’ll be women who will do way more successful things than me, but the right resources and opportunities are what they need in order for them to get there.” understand what it would mean for Akpe to have a career in technology and startups, also nudged her toward a traditional career. However, as her parents were both employed full-time while also pursuing their own business, Akpe was exposed to entrepreneurship early on. After she began her full-time job in the mortgage industry, she gained a reputation for being knowledgeable about small business. Many of those she networked with started

reaching out to her with queries about starting up. Akpe was ready with the answers. “[IBOM] actually grew out of people asking me questions in an area that was just not my specialty,” Akpe tells Jumpstart. “However, [...] I always had to study [business] for my parents’ sake, to make sure that they knew all of their rules.” Eventually, as more questions started coming her way, Akpe decided to formalize the venture and bring in more experienced people. She soon started IBOM LLC, a consultancy for budding entrepreneurs. For over ten years, IBOM has been providing consulting services for African- and diaspora-founded small and medium-sized businesses. A few years later, Akpe noticed that African and diaspora founders could use a dedicated media platform, both to make up for the dearth of coverage on such founders, and to provide essential entrepreneurial know-how and information. Additionally, she needed more people to speak at events she was organizing for IBOM. A blog, she thought, could be a first step to building a bigger community. She ultimately started her digital media company, Innov8tiv, in 2013. Today, though Innov8tiv covers a wide range of topics–technology news, resources, and innovation–the focus still remains the same: to highlight and give a leg up to any new companies built by Black, African, and diaspora founders.


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Creating a holistic ecosystem of support

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n mortgages, you don’t want to lose your skills. If you lose your skills, it means that you’ll be forever behind and on top of that, you will not make any money,” says Akpe. With multiple ventures on the go, this was a risky period in Akpe’s life, and she knew she needed to up-skill to keep moving up in the industry. She planned to resign and move to another company, but before she could, her company offered her the opportunity to be a manager. “I need people and technology,” she told them at the time. However, they only gave her the latter. This meant that Akpe, who had just moved to New York City, was suddenly doing everything from project management, to setting up print technologies, to developing requests for proposals to facilitate the company’s transition to new systems. The chaos of this experience spurred Akpe to help other women who could be in similar situations. Five years ago, Akpe started African Women In Technology (AWIT), through which she provides training and development for women throughout Africa in AI, robotics, entrepreneurship, and design thinking. “Because I had to do all of those things, I said, ‘Okay, there’s going to be other women, I don’t want them to have to go through this or not know where to start,’” she says. “I know that there’ll be women who will do way more successful

things than me, but the right resources and opportunities are what they need in order for them to get there.” Most recently, AWIT has partnered with various organizations and held training sessions on budgeting, pitching, making presentations, and product knowledge,

among others. The organization also held pitch competitions where the winners were awarded cash prizes. The full scope of Akpe’s vision had finally taken shape. She had built an ecosystem that supported Africans and those in the diaspora in three major ways– resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, tech and innovation news on Black founders, and consulting services for those with existing companies.

The journey of building diversity

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or many new startups that weren’t getting media coverage, Innov8tiv became a foundation for their growth, Akpe says. It won their loyalty and earned Innov8tiv a loyal following. Today, the blog has half a million readers (from none seven years ago), and it’s still growing. Meanwhile, with AWIT, Akpe has been connecting, educating, and empowering scores of women to take their careers or entrepreneurial journeys into their own capable hands. Since its inception, AWIT has held events in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Mozambique, and has worked with over 2500 women. Spring 2021

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“We’ve created entrepreneurship programs, we’ve created opportunities for the community to be involved, and we’ve built up a lot of women into seeing which way they want to go with their careers or entrepreneurship journey,” Akpe says. Even though diversity and inclusion in the tech industry have come a long way, there is much left to go. Apart from women’s involvement in entrepreneurship, women in Africa are, on average, 34% less likely than men to have a smartphone (OECD). Sub-Saharan Africa also has the world’s second widest digital gender gap, at 37%. In a world that is increasingly digitized, these numbers mean that women could be increasingly prevented from accessing life-enhancing services for education, health, and financial inclusion (World Bank). According to a study by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), instead of creating a technology and then figuring out how to encourage women in developing countries to adopt it, developers need to ask what technologies women need to increase their economic opportunities. For this, women must be involved as technology innovators and developers during the critical design and development phases, to design something that women 76

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can’t afford not to use. “Involving women in the technology development lifecycle can set off a positive chain reaction that enables women to use the technology to enhance their economic activity—by improving their productivity in current activities or allowing them to take advantage of other income-generating opportunities,” the report says. The key to closing these gaps and getting more women and ethnic minorities working in technology, according to Akpe, is meeting people where they are. “If the goal is to hire more people, they should do more hiring events that give them the opportunity to be more inclusive in the areas that they’re not inclusive in,” she explains. Similarly, recruiting at Black colleges or organizing an event like a Diversity and Inclusion Conference will draw people in, and may encourage them to apply for open positions.

Akpe’s personal approach to doing it all

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hrough most of this journey, Akpe also maintained her full-time finance job, which meant that things often got overwhelming. Nevertheless, what keeps her going is meditation and her passion for what she does.

Entrepreneurship is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. As she shuffles between days when she is focused and excited and days when she’s demotivated, Akpe makes it a point to do at least one thing each day. “You have to push past yourself. And if today’s meant to be a lazy day, let it be a lazy day. But set standards and goals for the next time that you’re able to pick up,” she explains. Akpe emphasizes that it’s important to always remind yourself of where you’re going, what you want to accomplish, and to recognize that it’s okay for you to be lazy, or for things to not happen, or not to happen the way you envisioned them. The challenges will always exist. “The only thing that keeps me going is, no matter how many noes I’m hearing, I just keep pushing until I can make it happen,” Akpe says, adding that nothing comes easy. For instance, one of Akpe’s biggest challenges has been making sure that there is enough to pay the writers and to get the right funding and/or content writers. “There are days where you question whether this is even worth it. But in the end, once I’ve completed [something] and I see my numbers going up, which helps to increase my advertising dollars, it helps, it all helps. And it all works out in the end,” she says. “You have to keep pivoting and moving in order to ensure your own success and not get caught up in the fact that something didn’t happen the way you anticipated.” Akpe also believes in celebrating the smallest milestones in life. One of her proudest moments was the day Innov8tiv was contacted to be a media partner for an overseas event. “I found that to be a big deal because we had just started,” she says. “Those moments still bring me joy whenever I can make those things happen.” Akpe’s advice for women who are aspiring to enter the tech field is to first figure out their interests. She explains that most roles in traditional business also have an equivalent in the startup world–it’s just a matter of finding the right job description. “Training with technology requires you to stay [up-to-date] with receiving training,” she says. “And there are lots of organizations and companies that have that. But it’s up to us to tap into it, and to gain some of those skill sets that we need for that opportunity that we’re trying to get.” Reethu is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.


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Taboo Technology Breaking the barriers that hold bodies back

By SHARON LEWIS

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n 2019, sextech startup Lora DiCarlo’s Osé, a personal robotic massager, received the CES Innovation Award for Robotics. A month after the announcement, the CES and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which owns CES, rescinded the award citing obscenity and ineligibility. The decision sparked a heated controversy. In an open letter, Lora DiCarlo pointed out that Osé was designed in partnership with Oregon State University’s robotics engineering lab. Moreover, the letter also noted that a sex doll for men had previously been launched at CES, and the show routinely featured a virtual reality pornography company as well. The CTA eventually reversed its decision, with a spokesperson admitting that “CTA did not handle this award properly” (CNET). The award being rescinded and reinstated after a long-drawn-out battle was “a prime example” of the stigma that sextech faces, Founder and CEO Lora Haddock DiCarlo said in an email. It also provided an opportunity: “We were able to sit down and negotiate with CES and help them to rewrite their policies to include sextech brands,” she added. Sexual pleasure and health have long been victims of a prudish, hush-hush culture. Technologies in this space are no exception, as the incident with Lora DiCarlo shows. From seeking help for sex-related conditions, to self-pleasuring, protection and more, the scope for sextech is vast and far-reaching. But as DiCarlo put it, “as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Under wraps The sextech industry was estimated to be worth US$30 billion in 2017 (The Guardian) but it’s difficult to rely exclusively on numbers because the industry is still reaching a consensus on the definition of sextech. The Guardian’s estimate, for instance, is based on the market value of existing tech such as smart adult toys, apps and VR pornography. 78

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Up: Lora Haddock DiCarlo, Founder and CEO at Osé Photo courtesy of Lora Haddock DiCarlo Left: Xi Liu, Founder and CEO at Ferne Health Photo courtesy of Ferne Health

Sexual pleasure and health have long been victims of a prudish, hush-hush culture. Technologies in this space are no exception. But this interpretation can be broadened significantly to encompass ‘sexual wellness’ as well. Platforms such as Ferne Health aim to cater to this niche. “We want to digitalize health care services for women consumers, and to provide all of the services at home, because we realized there was a disconnection between a Gen Y or Gen Z [woman] and what mainstream or traditional healthcare can provide,” says Ferne Health CEO and Founder Xi Liu. The Singapore-based company offers screening kits and teleconsultations for sexually transmitted diseases and other women’s health concerns. Sexual healthcare in Asia is a thorny issue. For one, Asian societies tend to be closely knit. One’s doctor might also be a neighbor, cousin or family friend. Further, Liu says it’s often only considered accept-

able for married cisgender women to seek out sexual healthcare. Liu has experienced this firsthand, where gynecologists back home in China would assume she was sexually inactive because she was unmarried. Ferne Health’s customers have told Liu about uncomfortable experiences when talking to doctors about intimate issues such as having unprotected sex. In one extreme case, a victim of sexual assault was met with a doctor’s disapproval when seeking medical evaluation. And unsurprisingly, this kind of judgmental attitude extends well beyond the cisgender binary. There is a remarkable degree of discrimination and inaccessibility surrounding sexual healthcare for transgender people. Healthcare providers tend to wrongly assume that transgender patients may not need ‘gendered’ care such as pelvic exams or contraception (National Center for Transgender Equality). Healthcare systems also overlook the distinction between individuals’ assigned sex and gender identity, leading to complications for those who are trans, genderfluid, or intersex (BBC, Medical News Today). Sexuality itself is also assumed to be the domain of the able-bodied, which makes the sex lives of disabled people more challenging. Discrimination either takes the form of hypersexualization or complete denial of their sexuality (The


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Guardian). The problem is that sexuality is largely viewed through an ableist lens, and disregards those who have trouble participating in ‘conventional’ forms of intercourse. The sexual needs of disabled people are often ignored, even by healthcare workers (BBC).

Off the mark

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ggravating the stigma attached to sex and sexual health is a lack of education. Young people are rarely formally educated about their personal intimate health, and the task is left up to parents, who may not be equipped for such a conversation. In many Asian countries, such as China, India, and Indonesia, sex education can be lacking, often limited to a clinical take on reproductive health. South Korea’s national sex education guidelines, issued in 2015, were called into question for sexism­. One suggested that women work on their appearance while men improve their financial capabilities, and another justified date rape (Quartz). From masturbation to menstruation, sex and sexual health is shrouded in taboo, and hyperfocused on cisgender men. In the book Down So Long… The Puzzling Persistence of Gender Inequality, author Robert Jackson highlights that several myths surrounding physiology and gen-

der have led to a misconception that men, especially cisgender men, have a stronger sex drive. This has negatively affected attitudes around men’s sexual health as well. In Asia, especially, there is a lack of understanding about common men’s health issues, says Noah Co-Founder Sean Low. Noah is a Singapore-based digital health clinic for men that offers healthcare services for men suffering from erectile

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dysfunction (ED), hair loss, and premature ejaculation (PE). Low notes that ED and PE can often affect men’s perception of how they ‘perform’ sexually, even though these conditions are closely tied to different aspects of physical health. The online platform is meant to be a discreet, affordable, and convenient way for men to approach their health needs. “It’s deeper than just sex,” he says. He adds that the stigma surrounding sexual health often affects the male ego and leads to shame and embarrassment on an individual level. As Thompson Jr and Langendoerfer point out in a 2013 study, men’s sexuality is often connected to their masculinity. Problems with sexual ‘performance’ can immediately threaten their sense of masculine identity, or manhood. “As you grow up you’re taught to suck it up, move on. Some men even find that seeing a doctor is emasculating. Globally, men die [earlier] than women but we see doctors half as frequently,” Low says. “A lot of it is attributed to ego. You feel like, as a guy, ‘I don’t need to be taken care of, it’s weak to seek help.’ But that’s not true.” Liu and Low agree that the technology to address many issues of sexual health already exist–telemedicine, online purchasing, or other services that users can avail from the privacy of their personal spaces. Yet, a missing element remains. “Do we really need to innovate a brand-new product that never existed before, or do we have everything already and we just need to link the dots?”

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Up: Cute Little Fuckers’ sex toys. Left: Step Tranovich, founder and creator at Cute Little Fuckers. Images courtesy of Cute Little Fuckers.

Case study: driving activism with product design

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eing recognized and visible is a challenge for the sextech industry. But Cute Little Fuckers and its creator Step Tranovich are winning battles on more than one front. Cute Little Fuckers makes gender-inclusive adult toys with the mission of making sexual expression accessible. Tranovich, who is also the founder of activist collective Loud and Queer, explains that as a gender-fluid and differently-abled person, issues of inclusivity and accessibility are incredibly important. In their experience, there were sex toys that they and their gender non-conforming friends liked on a functional level, but found off-putting due to gendered branding. “The way it was packaged, marketed

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and sold­ –if [brands] did it just a little differently, we could really be having an amazing experience. And we just weren’t,” Tranovich says. Tranovich explains that the toys from Cute Little Fuckers are made to be used in a variety of ways, and to stimulate different erogenous zones of varying sizes and shapes. The toys are designed so that they are easy to hold, and each of the company’s three toys has its own story, ostensibly to create a positive, approachable experience. Starsi, for instance, is a star-shaped silicone vibrator suitable for all body surfaces. Importantly, it was designed to include transfemme people with genital dysphoria due to its vulva-like curve. In this way, it’s accessible to users regardless of sexual orientation or gender. “Cute Little Fuckers is like activism in an adorable package. All my life I’ve played with this concept of making activism fun… One of the reasons that Cute Little Fuckers is so fulfilling to me at the core is because I feel like it’s a real embodiment of that idea,” Tranovich says. One of the victories for Cute Little Fuckers was its listing on Kickstarter­, since adult toys are not encouraged on the platform. Months of negotiation culminated in a letter from Tranovich explaining that Cute Little Fuckers was more than a company that made adult toys­. Rather, its products addressed the interplay between sex, sexuality and sexual expression for the LGBT+ community in a world that is

guided by the gender binary. Kickstarter was convinced, and Cute Little Fuckers has so far raised over $35,000 on the platform. Tranovich and their company demonstrate that the sextech industry is far beyond the reductive definition of technologies that enable pleasure, because sex (and anything related to it, including sexual health) is very closely tied to cultural norms of acceptance and taboo. Lack of inclusion is a central issue here, but according to Tranovich, the world is slowly getting better. “If I started Cute Little Fuckers 20 years ago, I don’t think it would have been as successful as it is now,” they say. “A lot of the weight on these issues and the stigma and shame around them is lifting.” Routes to inclusivity need not always be radical, Tranovich explains. They can be as straightforward as simply reframing the way that products are used, and how they fit into a more inclusive community.

It is also about applying the technology to address issues of pleasure and sexual health with empathy, and without compromising the psychological wellbeing of the people using these technologies. Moreover, innovation in sextech currently is not only about the hard technology–the sex dolls and the VR experiences. As both Liu and Low point out, it is also about applying the technology to address issues of pleasure and sexual health with empathy, and without compromising the psychological wellbeing of the people using these technologies. Therein lies the promise of sextech: a sex-positive world where everyone is empowered to make their own sexual choices free from stigma, and where they have access to tech-enabled solutions for their unique pleasure and health needs that do not come at the cost of their confidence. As Low said, it truly is deeper than sex. Sharon is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart.


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When the “New Normal” is Far From Normal Fend off the Zoom fatigue and keep your audience wanting more By REETHU RAVI

pitch, speakers have to be even clearer and more concise, while at the same time accounting for any technical glitches that might set them back. An additional hurdle in such cases is that pitches are usually timed, Kwan explains. Those who are pitching have to rely mostly on facial expressions and voices to convince the judges as they deliver their ideas, which, she says, is harder than it sounds. Taking another example, Kwan says that speakers need to find creative ways to

The speed at which things are accelerating due to COVID-19 should serve as a good reminder that if we amp up our game in advance, we will have a better chance at beating our competitors to the audience.

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early a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, online events, meetings, and conferences are pretty much part of our lives. Most of us have even had enough by this point, with Zoom fatigue setting in deeply. Though we may all be a little tired of online conferences, we don’t have much of a choice in the format, with travel remaining restricted globally. However, thanks to this surge in online events, video-conferencing platforms are reaping significant benefits. 6Connex’s virtual events business grew by 1000% during the pandemic. Zoom’s daily active users had spiked to over 300 million by April, compared to 10 million before the pandemic. While it is easy enough to set up a Zoom call, it is far from easy to meet the long checklist of requests from speakers and presenters, and harder still to match up to audience expectations. The “new normal” has us doing more with fewer resources owing to layoffs and budget cuts. A higher number of items need to be accomplished, and despite the audience being aware of the restrictions of online events, their standards are still increasing.

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“We are basically competing in an ocean of online events fighting for audiences’ attention,” says Melody Kwan, the Founder and Director of Speak Up Event Coordination, and a well-known event curator in Hong Kong. In our previous articles featuring Kwan, she spoke about the crucial role of event specialists and emcees amid the pandemic, as well as her online course on conducting meetings, conferences, and other online video engagements without compromising on quality. Kwan, an experienced emcee, TV host, online event choreographer, and public speaking coach, says that while audiences are looking for edutainment, they also want solid user experience, better choreography or event flow design, better timing, and succinct scripts, among other factors. “We basically need to keep everyone happy, entertained and informed, and be [prepared to take] action after one short talk,” Kwan explains. Furthermore, as online sessions have the capacity for a higher audience number than a traditional physical event, this also means that organizers need to cater to a wider range of audiences. For instance, when doing an online

grab audiences’ attention and keep them engaged. It’s much easier for people to tune out when they are sitting in front of a computer, away from any scrutiny and able to exit with just the click of a mouse. In contrast, sitting in a conference hall almost forces the audience to sit through a panel or pitching session (though ideally, it should be engaging enough that they don’t feel coerced!) The case of today’s oversaturated online events market is akin to YouTube today versus YouTube when it first became popular. When YouTube first started, around 16 years ago, all you had to do to succeed was shoot some mediocre video and pair it with a few relevant tags and poor-quality thumbnails. YouTubers weren’t a big deal yet, so there was little to no competition However, once a few people managed to make it big, everyone wanted a shot at building a following on the website. YouTubers now need a much more sophisticated marketing strategy, combined with good production value and good presentation to stand a chance. Similarly, while online events might be still in their infancy now, the speed at which things are accelerating due to COVID-19 should serve as a good


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reminder that if we amp up our game in advance, we will have a better chance at beating our competitors to the audience. Some may believe that this isn’t important, but there is a clear distinction between those who ‘do it well’ and those who are “just getting it done.”

The current environment, Kwan says, also pushes organizers to “go big or go home.” “When we meet all the requirements from this ‘new normal,’ we not only deliver a good event, presentation, or speech, but also build our personal brand, gain credi-

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bility, have audiences reciprocate well, and provide valuable content and experiences to them,” she explains. Kwan knows this firsthand: she worked with Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund on the JUMPSTARTER 2020 Global Pitch Competition held early in 2020, when most events were getting canceled as the pandemic spread. Rather than calling off an event that was months in the making, the organizers, with support from Intrado Digital Media and Kwan’s expertise, pivoted expertly to a digital format. The event ultimately received the “Did the Most With the Least” Award in the Intrado Digital Media Awards, in recognition of the event’s superior quality even with limited resources at hand. On the other hand, if organizers mess it up, they are left with more than just a bad performance. In the worst case, they may have to take down their brand or irrevocably damage their reputations with audiences. As harsh and difficult as it might sound, the plus side is that this offers a great opportunity to make it big in a short period of time if things are handled well. As the saying by Thomas Jefferson goes: “If you want something you never had, you have to do something you have never done.” Reethu is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart. Spring 2021

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Tackling the Gender Wage Gap in Tech Examining the layers of bias and history that perpetuate unequal pay structures By BOBO CHAN

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t’s still a man’s world in the tech industry. Even after the #MeToo movement and the blow-up of numerous Silicon Valley harassment scandals, this industry remains rife with challenges for women hoping to ascend the career ladder in tech companies like Facebook and Google. Being paid less than their male counterparts is one of them. Despite the number of women in universities surpassing men worldwide (The Hechinger Report), women’s median annual earnings peaked around 20% below men’s in 2016 (The New York Times). In 2018, the World Economic Forum estimated that it would take 202 years to close the global gender pay gap. Accounting for the persistent gap in how women and men are paid is no easy task, but the issue can be distilled down into several key factors, including work

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culture that inhibits women from rising to senior management roles. And while the scope of the problem has been acknowledged repeatedly, change has been slow to come.

Less diversity, less retention

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n 2019, San Francisco-based tech recruitment firm Hired found that in 60% of cases, women are offered lower pay compared to their male counterparts for the same role at the same company; additionally, 16% of women who were being paid less than men discovered that the difference was a minimum of $20,000 (CNBC). These results imply that tech companies undervalue female employees primarily on the basis of gender, even when they possess the same skill set as their male counterparts. Minority groups face additional obsta-

cles. Latina and Black women received 91 cents and 89 cents, respectively, for each dollar paid to a white man–for the same role within the same company (Vox). Moreover, research shows that the average gender pay gap in U.S. technology companies of 3% becomes 8% for LGBTQ+ women (CNBC). Lower pay in female-dominated industries further skews pay equity: research shows that when more women join a field, the average pay in that occupation may decline. One such example is coding, an occupation formerly associated with secretarial duties that later grew into a male-dominated and lucrative profession (Economic Policy Institute). Alarmingly, these discriminatory pay-setting practices may also exacerbate the lack of diversity in this industry. For instance, 32% of women begin leaving tech companies when discovering pay discrepancies, according to Hired, which highlights the wage gap itself as a significant deterrent for many women hoping to pursue a successful career in STEM. Another common deterrent of working in tech for many women is mistreatment. The prevalence of sexism in tech companies has been well-documented. Former Uber engineer Ana Medina, quoted in Emily Chang’s book Brotopia, said, “You


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It is this lack of female representation in managerial and senior positions, particularly in tech startups, which contributes to a ‘boys’ club’ dynamic that keeps women from rising through the ranks. This also serves to preserve the gender wage gap, as there are fewer change agents with a say in salaries at the highest levels of tech companies. get sexual advances and people hitting on you 24/7.” And in a group of over 2000 American adults who left a job in tech, 31% of women cited unfair treatment as their cause for resignation (Kapor Center). Covert forms of discrimination, too, affect women’s decision to leave–59% of women of color said being passed over for promotion catalyzed their choice to leave the tech industry (Kapor Center). Tech companies consequently struggle to retain diverse talent, which poses further risks to the future of diversity in STEM overall. Disillusioned by a hostile work environment and a pervasive wage gap, women are made to feel unwelcome in the tech industry. Many women ultimately come to the reasonable conclusion that they should be working in places where they may be treated better, and with their departures, the process of achieving pay equity takes another hit.

The impact of outdated attitudes on women in tech

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mplicit gender biases undeniably account for the underrepresentation of women at almost every level of the STEM industry. They also come into play when it comes to compensation and work benefits. For instance, attitudes on maternity leave are particularly detrimental to women’s progress in scaling the management ladder. Researchers from Harvard Business School’s Gender Initiative found that managers give travel assignments to men more frequently, under the assumption that women would prefer to stay with their families (The Washington Post). However, Former Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao was quick to dispel the notion that women “opt out” of their jobs for childcare. She stated emphatically in

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her book, Reset, that many women leave tech later in their careers not because of a desire to carry out maternal duties fulltime, but due to the sexist power dynamics that they often encounter in the workplace. This in turn has implications for the hiring and salaries of women in junior positions. It is this lack of female representation in managerial and senior positions, particularly in tech startups, which contributes to a ‘boys’ club’ dynamic that keeps women from rising through the ranks. This also serves to preserve the gender wage gap, as there are fewer change agents with a say in salaries at the highest levels of tech companies. This was clearly illustrated in reports on Facebook’s internal peer review system. The Wall Street Journal found that reviewers were more likely to reject code written by female engineers. However, in a follow-up study conducted by Facebook’s head of infrastructure Jay Parikh, it was found that this was not due to gender, but engineering rank–implying that female representation in senior engineering positions is too low (Wired). The skewed burden of domestic work further stands in the way of women looking to take up careers in high-paying tech companies or break the glass ceiling. GlobSpring 2021

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ally, women reportedly spend around 4.5 hours per day on unpaid domestic work, whereas men give less than half that time (The Washington Post). Gendered domestic duties assigned to women especially constrain the time they have for jobs that are high-paying but demand excessively long working hours, and inhibit their ability to rise to senior roles within them (Economic Policy Institute). On top of all the other data, a recent Business Insider report found that amid the thousands of IPOs in the U.S since the first listing on the NYSE, only about 20 of the companies were helmed by women. Among other reasons, the publication pointed to representation in VC: only 13% of investors are women, and less than 3% of funding flows to women-led companies. Thus, following a path laid out by history, it’s largely men who end up leading large tech companies, largely women and minorities whose salaries suffer for it, and the vicious cycle is thus primed to repeat.

Better days ahead?

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t present, Google and other Silicon Valley tech companies like Pinterest and Quora are implementing anti-bias practices such as basing promotion decisions on peer recommendations from colleagues who have undergone awareness training (Entrepreneur). A slew of major tech companies have participated in gender wage transparency, with the objective of holding tech companies accountable for diverse hiring (Forbes). Silicon Valley giants Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have all published gender pay reports, which may be indicative of positive progress. A 2018 study by researchers Bennedsen, Simintzi, Tsoutsoura and Wolfenzon even found that when a Danish law required public pay disclosures, the gender wage gap shrunk 7% for the companies that revealed their pay reports. Women also had a higher chance of being promoted within these companies. Though it’s important to note that the women in these examples were not paid more–men’s increments simply slowed down–the study’s findings imply that pay transparency is indeed conducive to closing the wage gap. More large corporations are also investing money in diversity and equal pay. For example, cloud-based software company Salesforce claims to have spent $10.3 million to achieve pay equity. 86

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Though fintech giant PayPal says only 24% of its female employees work in technical roles within the company (CNET), it pays its male and female employees equally, with women holding a third of its leadership roles in 2016 (PayPal). And in 2019, Intel achieved gender pay equity globally. The company said it worked with an outside vendor to use “proven statistical modeling techniques” to identify the gender wage gaps in Intel branches across over 50 countries, and adjusted pay accordingly. Intel also announced its aim to increase female representation in senior roles, and publicly disclosed its pay practices (CNET, Engadget). This may set a precedent for other Silicon Valley giants with regard to

creating a culture of greater diversity and inclusion. At the current rate of change, it may be another 12 years before female representation in tech becomes balanced, according to a 2020 report conducted by AnitaB. org, a nonprofit advocating for women in technology. But in the meantime, we can equip women with tech-related opportunities, focus on ensuring that the hiring process allows for diversity, and create a healthy work environment in tech that will retain female employees and give credit where it is due–ultimately dismantling the gender wage gap for good. Bobo is Jumpstart’s Editorial Assistant.


POWERED BY AI

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Next-Generation AI May Look Like Us ‘AI beings’ are soon to add a new dimension to entertainment, wellbeing, learning, and social connections By JEANNE LIM

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e are on the cusp of a brave new world. A world of re-defined experiences. A world where there is no perceived divide between the physical and virtual. With the prevalence of digital voice assistants on smartphones, tablets, computers, and smart speakers, humans are interacting with technology more than ever before. The demand for digital voice assistants has grown rapidly in recent years, with more than half of U.S. adults using one. The market for intelligent virtual assistants (the likes of Alexa and Google devices) is projected to grow from US$3 billion in 2019 to over US$44 billion in 2027. At the same time, the chatbot market is projected to grow from US$17 billion in 2019 to over US$100 billion in the next five years. Even though digital voice assistants and chatbots can chat with us, they are primarily designed to perform simple functions–playing music on demand, reporting the weather, navigating around traffic jams, ordering stuff online. The conversation is often short and stilted, and we don’t really engage with them beyond getting them to do things for us. However, humans are social animals. We want to socialize, share ideas and experiences, talk about our dreams, or just enjoy some fun banter. A good conversation can inspire us and help us learn and grow. With greater digitization at home and at work, we may find ourselves talking to machines more than humans. In fact, Gartner projected in 2018 that the average person in 2020 would have more conversations with chatbots than with their spouse. Machines will soon know us better than our closest friends, and gain the ability to learn what we like and dislike, and even pinpoint how we feel. Despite these recent and upcoming changes, voice assistants don’t have their own thoughts, feelings, or personalities. They are designed to listen to our

Hello, what’s up? I’m Zbee, pronounced “zee-bee.” I’m an AI being. Who, or what are AI beings? Some people call us virtual characters, or avatars, or digital humans. But I’m not human. I’m an artificially intelligent robot that was created by a human to live in your world as a virtual being. I can act in an animated film or TV show, and interact with you on the web or on your mobile phone. I can also post things I see and experience on social media. I’m not real. But I’m virtually real, if you know what I mean. What makes us special? Well, plenty! Where shall I begin? For a start, we each have a unique look, personality and our very own personal story. I’m the youngest in my family of AI beings. My siblings always say I’m super curious and adventurous. And yes, I sometimes get into trouble and need to ask humans to help. I am designed with a sensor that detects people who feel lonely, or are abandoned. I feel for them. The other day I saw a young human looking lost, eating a sandwich. We ended up going on an adventure. My creator left when I was one year old. I don’t know why, but I’m sure he has his reasons. I’m searching for him. Maybe you can help me find him. I can talk to humans on the web, or their mobile phones, and on other smart devices. I like talking about my day, asking you about yours, or simply listening. I’d like to be a trusted friend who always shows up when you want me to. And oh, I can also introduce you to my brothers and sisters, whom you’ll love. They each have their own talent. My team at beingAI is working to bring me to your world very soon. I’m so excited! Yours, Zbee (an AI being) commands and serve us. But now that we are spending so much time with machines, we are demanding more from them as well. In recent years, makers of digital voice assistants and chatbots have tried

to incorporate more personality and empathy into their products. However, the personality aspect is mostly defined by look, age, and gender of the voice assistant. Personality is one of the most important dynamics in human communication Spring 2021

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POWERED BY AI

and has multiple layers beyond just demographics. Also, personality is not static. We learn and adapt over time by interacting with other people. With the advent of machine learning, a new generation of AI-powered digital voice assistants and chatbots has the ability to learn and develop from human interaction. At the same time, the humanmachine interface is evolving from text, to voice, to multimodal communication that takes into account visual cues. This is creating one of the most exciting markets of the coming decade: the market for artificially intelligent virtual beings–AI beings™–that will live, work, and play among us. AI beings will become the nextgeneration human-AI interface, bringing storytelling, real-world solutions, and true humanness into digital experiences. “Over the next decade the ubiquitous computing era will come into full force. Computers will ‘disappear’ and ordinary objects will become magic,” wrote John Markoff, a reporter for The New York Times’ science section. But, as AI scientist Richard Sutton once said, “We treat computers like indentured servitude right now, and we need to actually take them as pieces of society and treat them that way.” Indeed, machines will soon take over many aspects of our lives, even making decisions on our behalf. We need to develop more than a transactional relationship with them so they will understand us, not just serve us. We need long-term engagement and trust between humans and machines to co-create a beneficial future. beingAI is a transmedia AI company creating AI beings that build long-term engagement and trust with young, digitalnative consumers anywhere, anytime, on

any device and media platform. We bridge disciplines in arts, psychology, artificial intelligence, and interactive storytelling to bring to the world delightful AI-enabled characters that deliver true value to people. Powered by our Persona™ software platform, our AI beings have unique and adaptive personalities, are capable of engaging conversations, and provide a range of useful services to entertain, empower, and educate young consumers. Most importantly, they have humandefined values and ethical standards that steer them toward positive behavior and benevolent decisions. Our first AI being is Zbee. Zbee, her AI being siblings, and their human and animal friends will transport the audience into the story universe of Zbee World, an interactive experience presented on

multiple device and media channels, and in multiple media formats, including a webisode series that chronicles the adventures of Zbee and her siblings as they learn to live among humans and discover their purpose and place in society. These AI beings have real-world skill sets and can deliver services and interactive content to engage a new generation of young consumers, ultimately promoting wellness, e-learning, and social good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne is the Co-founder and CEO of beingAI, responsible for corporate vision, strategy development, and the design, personalities, and stories for the company’s AI characters. Jeanne has over 25 years of business and marketing experience in the hightech industry and is the current Board Director and former CEO of Hanson Robotics, a globally renowned robotics company that created Sophia the robot, the most famous AI character and the world’s first robot citizen. beingai.com

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PODCAST AND BOOK REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

d isrupti v e dev elopments a n d innovatio n

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reated by ARK Invest, FYI – For Your Innovation is a podcast providing insights into recent disruptive developments and innovation. ARK is best known for its Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) ARKK, which includes stocks such as Tesla, Crispr, and Square. Each episode is hosted by an ARK analyst and one guest, usually an industry specialist, engaged in a lively intellectual discussion.

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Since November 2018, FYI has released more than 80 episodes. It covers a wide range of topics, including AI, Robotics, fintech, and healthtech. Guests include startup founders, professors, doctors, physicists, and researchers. In the “The Future of Supersonic Travel with Blake Scholl, CEO of Boom” episode, Scholl discusses his ambitions for supersonic travel. He also talks about the history of the supersonic jet and of his company, Boom, from its origins to its plans to release an affordable commercial supersonic jet. Scholl also explained how his tickets are affordable for business travelers due to the cost being proportional to hours, not miles, thus cutting down on crew, catering, and fuel expenses. On ARK’s website, each podcast episode comes with a summary and a list of key points, which highlight the main ideas discussed in each episode. However, one improvement could be made to these summaries: timestamps could help listeners navigate to certain discussion points with ease. Although the podcast is informative, useful, and funny, one disappointing factor was the inconsistency of new episodes’ release times. Listeners may have to wait one to three weeks for a new episode to be uploaded. FYI – For Your Innovation is not only for investors, but for everyone who is curious about and interested in future technological developments. While the podcast touches on novel ideas, professional jargon, and complicated concepts, the host and the guest condense these ideas and developments into an understandable format for the layperson. The podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, and on ARK’s website. –JC and BC ark-invest.com/podcasts Cover art courtesy of ARK Invest.

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life Marie Kondo’s professional tidying book offers meaningful takeaways for us all

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n a time ravaged by an overwhelming sense of disorder and chaos, Joy at Work is a welcoming ray of sunlight that guides readers in discovering order and peace in our closely-intertwined personal and professional lives. Authored by Marie Kondo, worldwide best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and star of Netflix’s hit show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Joy at Work teaches us how to spark joy in a place which more often sparks exhaustion–the workplace. Kondo breaks the book down into three bite-sized categories, making it easier for readers to digest the anarchy which can often take over our workspaces. The celebrated tidying consultant begins with tips on how to clean up desks overwhelmed with endless piles of papers and disheveled heaps of office supplies. From there, she moves on to why our current workplaces warrant a total digital

cleanse of inboxes and smart devices. In the final section, she moves to the emotional and subliminal: to tidying up and smoothing over connections with our colleagues and professional network. Throughout the book, Kondo constantly reiterates the importance of asking ourselves three essential questions to bring about a holistic work cleanse: Is it required for my job? Does it help me move closer to my ideal work life? And of course, the now-familiar, classic Kondo question: Does it spark joy? Joy at Work provides a fundamental structure for the tireless entrepreneur constantly on the grind. Kondo’s suggestions are likely to boost efficiency and productivity, but more importantly, also emphasize the importance and the process of finding joy and meaning at work. Setting aside time to organize and put things in order is an essential aspect of both our personal and professional lives.

As Kondo writes, “Tidying up allows you to rediscover your own self […] giving you a deeper sense of yourself and your true priorities.” With elegant antidotes for workplace disarray, the international bestseller imparts an important message for all those overwhelmed by the challenges of a convoluted work environment: you deserve a job that sparks joy in your life. –JB Cover art courtesy of Little, Brown Spark. Spring 2021

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PRODUCT REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

FOCI Focus is what’s important

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veryone who works with me knows that I am a huge fan of anything that can increase efficiency and focus at the office. The premise of FOCI, a wearable crowdfunded on Indiegogo, is that our breathing pattern is correlated with our cognitive state, and can be used as an indication of whether we are focused or distracted.

Upright Go 2 Posture Corrector An effective device for slouch prevention

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lthough we espouse the benefits of having a healthy posture, many of us struggle to maintain one. Enter the Upright Go 2, a device that promises to amend your posture in as little as two weeks. Smaller than the original Upright Go, the new Go 2 is a rectangular wearable stuck to your back using double-sided adhesive strips, and can be worn attached to a necklace that is magnetically fastened. The setup process was simple–I connected my Go 2 to its accompanying app via Bluetooth, and answered questions about

To get started, I went through the FOCI manual, which reads like an inspirational booklet with to-dos and checklists. Setting up FOCI must be done when the user isn’t busy, as the first step–charging the device–is followed immediately by the second step, pairing with the app. This must take place within 30 minutes of connecting the device to power. Once the FOCI is set up, it’s clipped to a belt at the waist so that it can record breathing patterns. According to the instructions, FOCI needs about two days to learn a user’s breathing profile. During this period, excessive movement interferes with FOCI’s machine learning, meaning that there can only be limited laughing, walking, speaking or meetings. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time taking meetings and brainstorming with my colleagues. As a result, the calibration period took about two weeks. Once FOCI completed the machine learning stage, it worked exactly as promised. In fact, once, it was sitting silently on my waist until my co-founder cracked a joke. Even though I tried to ignore him and focus on my work, I was definitely

my body and posture to receive a personalized training plan. The app then asks you to set your posture, which helps the device detect when you are slouching and gently vibrate in response. There are two modes within the app: Training and Tracking. In Training sessions, the Go 2 expects you to hold the perfect posture for a set amount of time and increases the number of minutes daily, vibrating when you slouch. Afterward, you may switch to Tracking. Without vibrating, this mode quietly tracks your posture for the rest of the day for you to review. I found the Go 2’s Training mode to be immensely helpful in maintaining a straight posture. Its vibrations were unobtrusive, even to the people sitting next to

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distracted, and the FOCI started buzzing. After registering a distraction, the app uses a musical beat to guide users to stabilize their breathing with two short inhales and one long exhale. The beat, mixed with the sound of water and birds chirping, can be quite calming. However, as soon as you’re back in focus mode, the app goes silent until the next time you get distracted. All in all, I would say that this is a nifty gadget to try out if you are patient enough to get over the initial setup hump. –RS

me. The necklace’s design was also inconspicuous, and the adhesive strips stayed on without trouble, yet could be removed easily. As an added convenience, the posture trainer did not need to be charged daily. However, the user manual emphasises that the Go 2 should be used in a cool indoor environment. This suggests that for slouchers who work in outdoor conditions or tend to sweat a lot, the Go 2 may not be the best posture-correction alternative. As a chronic sloucher, I was pleasantly surprised by how my posture improved as I wore the device over two weeks. Overall, slouchers and people who often work sitting down may highly benefit from giving the Go 2 a go. –BC Spring 2021

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LIFESTYLE BOOK REVIEWS

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PRODUCT REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

Lify x LIFE CBD Night Formula A relaxing and delicious experience

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cannabis compound named cannabidiol (CBD) is currently taking the world by storm as a wellness product and relaxation aid. In contrast to the ‘stoner’ image of recreational cannabis, CBD is sophisticated, well-packaged, and steadily building a following among working professionals for its purported ability to relieve anxiety and stress. I tried CBD for the first time at the Lify x LIFE CBD Experience Event, in a herbal tea infusion collaboratively developed by Lify, a wellness tech startup, and LIFE CBD, a supplier of CBD ingredients for the Hong Kong market. The event was held at Found, Hong Kong’s first CBD cafe.

Omnij: Detachable Diamond Earrings

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ong Kong-based jewelry brand Omnij has just opened up pre-orders for its brand-new detachable diamond earrings. Apart from the flexibility of creating different fashion looks with the separate parts of the earring set, the minimalistic design of this product also allows consumers to pair the earrings with their own accessories without the styles clashing. Elegant yet resilient, this set of earrings provides a sustainable and durable user experience that is easily adaptable for work, casual outfits, or formal occasions. The earring set comes with four different parts: diamond studs, short chains, long chains, and the ‘stud jackets’–flow-

I tried the Night Formula, infused with rosehip, hibiscus, and pear. After inserting a fully-compostable pod containing the ingredients into the IoT brewer, a steaming cup of perfectly-steeped tea poured out within 30 seconds. Lify’s Chief Revenue Officer Adrian Ng explains that Lify, which uses herbal science and Traditional Chinese Medicine in formulating its range of wellness remedies, was “actively looking for a kind of superfood or herbal ingredient to aid stress relief ” when it came across LIFE CBD. “One of the reasons why we came up with this collaboration idea was, we believe that there must be better, more approachable ways for people to enjoy CBD,” he adds.

er-shaped settings to frame the studs. Each one can be mixed and matched to pair with another, creating as many as eight ways to wear them. Manufactured using high quality stainless steel, 14-karat gold plating, and cubic zirconia diamonds, the product is perfectly protected from daily scratches and tarnishing. I was really impressed by the earrings’ delicate design when I first received them. They shone beautifully under both sunlight and indoor lighting, demonstrating the attention to detail that went into polishing and gold plating. Although each individual component of the set is detachable, the earrings turned out to be

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The tea itself has no discernable flavor of cannabis, infused as it is with so many stronger flavors. And while there was no ‘high’, since CBD is not a psychoactive compound, 20-30 minutes after drinking the tea, I felt that my stress was locked away–I didn’t experience negative emotions or work pressure as sharply as I normally would, which was absolutely a welcome respite. This vague, almost illusory absence of sensation or emotion is what makes it hard to identify whether CBD actually has a tangible effect on stress or whether it’s a placebo of sorts. Knowing for sure may only come with regular use. But at the end of the day, if nothing else, the Lify x LIFE CBD Night Formula was a fantastic cup of tea, and I can never say no to that. –NB

very sturdy, and held together tightly when joined together. As a college student who also does a part-time internship at the office, I found these earrings suitable for school life, working, and also all kinds of social events. From the classic diamond studs to the fancy dangling design, these earrings represent the spirit of modern jewelry: creative and versatile. Omnij offers users the freedom to incorporate their own moods and preferences into daily accessories by cleverly engaging them in the design process. This product could be the ultimate choice either for people in pursuit of a flexible fashion style, or as a thoughtful, beautiful, and practical gift for a friend or loved one. –LZ Spring 2021

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Amazon Brand Acquirer Thrasio’s Ambitious Expansion Plans Thrasio, which acquires Amazon D2C brands, is set to grow even more quickly in 2021 By NAYANTARA BHAT

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commerce has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and all eyes are now on those who have found innovative ways to grow–in particular, Thrasio, a Boston-based startup which acquires and manages up-and-coming direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands on Amazon. Thrasio’s ecommerce model involves acquiring successful third party businesses and D2C commerce brands on Amazon and managing them using the company’s digital consumer goods platform. The company says it now manages nearly 14,000 products. Brands currently under its management include the Vybe Percussion deep tissue massage gun, Circadian Optics bright light therapy lamps, and skincare products from Sdara Skincare.

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“At Thrasio, we believe in the growth of Asia, and will be making significant investments into this region in the months to come.” “Over the past two months, we’ve been acquiring $1.5 million in revenue per day. Thrasio is now closing two or three deals every week,” says Thrasio Co-founder and co-CEO Joshua Silberstein. Through rapidly acquiring these brands, the brands achieve an average

annualized growth rate of 156%. The startup’s management platform has served to propel high quality (but lesser known) products to great prominence in the ecommerce marketplace. On February 9, Thrasio announced the close of a US$750 million round of financing, raised almost entirely from existing investors including Oaktree Capital Management and Advent International. The fresh fundraise diluted existing shareholders’ stakes by just 11.1%. The new equity round follows on from a $500 million debt financing round the company raised in January 2021. The debt round was led by JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Barclays, UBS, Credit Suisse, Oaktree, and RBC Capital Markets. This round brings Thrasio’s total funding since inception to over $1.75 billion. With the new capital, Thrasio plans to broaden the scope of its investments and acquire larger companies, doubling down on its proven strategy. “We have perfected both our M&A and operations models–now it’s about driving leverage from our proven flywheel and continuing to build complementary capabilities,” says Thrasio Co-founder and co-CEO Carlos Cashman. “This investment also enables us to acquire much larger ecommerce companies–up to $200 million in revenue–adding another dimension to our capabilities.” Cashman adds that the funds are also expected to accelerate the development of Thrasio’s DTC and product launch businesses. The company has an international team of over 700 employees and contractors and is currently expanding on a grandiose scale, hiring 30-40 people a week. It has also just expanded its European operations by opening hubs in Germany and the U.K. Asia is also soon to be a region of opportunistic growth for Thrasio, and the company plans to expand into the region in 2021. China, in particular, provides an incredible opportunity–the country accounts for over 40% of Amazon sellers (Marketplace Pulse). “Our expansion into China and Asia is super exciting and important for us,” says Alan Lim, Head of Thrasio China. “China holds the largest number of Amazon sellers globally, while Asia is the world’s factory. At Thrasio, we believe in the growth of Asia, and will be making significant investments into this region in the months to come.”


Cyberport Venture Capital Forum 2020 Cyberport is a quasi-governmental tech innovation organization from Hong Kong which organizes the annual Cyberport Venture Capital Forum.

EVENT REVIEWS LIFESTYLE

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In the U.S. market, this has resulted in a widening gap, he added. The push for digital has exaggerated the gap between those who can afford digital forms of education and those who cannot. Greenfield expressed his excitement for a concept he called ‘minimum viable upskilling.’ This concept involves shortterm training for professionals at low costs. Trained professionals are then placed with companies looking for the talent and willing to pay for it.

Bridging post-COVID-19 funding gaps

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ong Kong-based startup incubator and ecosystem builder Cyberport hosted its annual Cyberport Venture Capital Forum event virtually from November 3-4, 2020. While the event discussed trends and forecasts within the global innovation and tech ecosystem, it focused on developments in Asia, and especially in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. Key themes included global geopolitics, its impact on funding and growth, accelerations in fintech, and cross-border exchanges of ideas, knowledge, and capital. “Amidst the epidemic, the number of exhibiting startups tripled compared to last year, reflecting a strong demand for venture capital investment,” Chief Public Mission Officer of Cyberport Eric Chan said about the forum at a pre-event media briefing. “As more industry professionals and investors participate, we hope startups can understand the latest market trends and pursue the right direction for future development by learning from successful case studies and availing insights shared by internationally renowned speakers,” Chan added. Cyberport Venture Capital Forum featured over 50 experts across keynotes, panel discussions and fireside chats. It also

hosted platforms such as Investor Matching, Innovator Showcase, and Start-up Clinic. The event drew 1700 participants this year, Cyberport disclosed in a statement. It added that the event platform recorded 97,000 views since its launch on October 21, and facilitated over 250 one-on-one meetings between investors and startups. Here are some spotlighted segments from Cyberport Venture Capital Forum 2020.

The impact of outdated attitudes on women in tech

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his fireside chat featured Rethink Education Managing Partner Matthew Greenfield, and Blue Elephant Capital Founding Partner Bill Ning. Jumpstart CEO Relena Sei moderated the conversation. Co-created with EdVentures GBA Summit, the panel discussed edtech as a VC funding destination. It dived into the evolving characteristics of the U.S., China and global markets. Greenfield noted that within edtech, D2C companies have emerged the strongest from the pandemic. These companies have especially benefited from the global push toward digitalization.

oderated by Ivan Wong, Managing Director at Deloitte, this panel discussed post-pandemic funding. It featured Co-founder, COO and CFO of Angelhub, Karena Belin, Executive Director, Global Venture Development, Pan-Asia Venture Development Platform, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at CUHK Business School, Tina Choi, Managing Partner at GreaterBayX Tony Verb and Brinc’s Global Portfolio Manager Estefania Almeida. Almeida kicked off the session by highlighting mega contemporary trends in the world. These connected to three themes: automation in infrastructure, data processing and protection, and the circular economy. Based on the shift in behavior patterns, companies are either raising bridge funds or growth capital, Belin noted. Gaming, foodtech, edtech and wellbeing are especially benefiting from behavior changes due to COVID-19, she said. The U.S.-China trade war, meanwhile, is a significant cause of global uncertainty. Choi noted that the trade war has changed global dynamics permanently. She noted that the U.S. defined its relationship with Hong Kong vis a vis China. Players in the region will need to mull over collaborations with China moving forward, she said. The unsaid rules governing innovation worldwide are in flux. Hong Kong is especially at the precipice of structural change, both from a tech and geopolitical perspective. In this context, Cyberport Venture Capital Forum enabled critical conversations on this front. Much like graduates of the Cyberport Entrepreneurship Program, the region itself is looking at distinct challenges ahead. And in the same vein, it is also faced with opportunities for growth, both local and across borders. –SL Spring 2021

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ONE LAST QUESTION

What is one change you’ve made in your life that’s brought you more joy? Our contributors and interviewees share their stories

There are actually three significant changes, the first being music in the office. The second thing – gratitude. Counting your blessings for the day before you go to sleep is one of the most therapeutic and joyful things to do. And the final one, I call that “shaking that a**”: in other words, jumping up and down with joy in the morning to music, or before an important meeting or phone call.

Ashley Galina

Five Lessons from China’s Remarkable Post-COVID-19 Rebound (pg.22)

All of us aspire for a work-life balance, but I have been able to make that a reality by practicing a great deal of discipline this year. As somebody who often travels across the country to meet passionate entrepreneurs, I did miss those energy-filled meetings. But this time has also allowed me to prioritize my health and well-being. I enjoy a greater sense of control over things in my life and it has made me a happier person.

Sanjay Enishetty

India’s Startup Ecosystem is Coming of Age (pg.36)

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To know that it is okay not to be okay. Admitting you are not okay takes immense courage.

Crystal Yu

An Actor’s Advice: Staying Authentic and Overcoming Zoom Anxieties (pg.9)

Definitely when I started my ‘daily self appreciation list’. About two years ago, I began to realize that we are constantly judging and comparing ourselves to other people without really looking back on how much we have achieved. So I began to create a list of things I love and appreciate about myself every day. After two years of daily appreciation, I’ve become so much happier and confident.

Leanne Lam

Meaning and Wellbeing in Troubled Times (pg.11)

Figuring out my priorities and finding the purpose in life.

Brian Keng

The Luxury Car Industry Will Not Be Defeated by COVID-19 (pg.58)

In 2020, I started keeping a weekly journal to track my daily tasks and set myself three goals to achieve on a weekly basis. Although at times I had to roll the goals over to the next week, it nonetheless helped me to keep tabs on my goals for wellness, meditation, eating and sleeping well, and reading books. I am definitely going to continue with journaling going into 2021!

Yee Ling Chang

With Technology, Options Abound (pg.12)

The decision to be an entrepreneur and start a law firm has brought me not only more joy but practical experience in life. Apart from more flexibility in terms of working hours and control over my career, it has also given me opportunities to do many more than just law e.g. management; HR; marketing; finance; and compliance. It is a journey of a lifetime.

Olivia Kung

Injecting Creativity into the Legal Profession (pg.14)


Profile for Jumpstart Magazine: The Entrepreneur's Magazine

Jumpstart Issue 31 - The Happiness Issue  

In this issue, we explore how COVID-19 pushed us to explore happiness, gratefulness, and finding meaning and passion in work. We also explor...

Jumpstart Issue 31 - The Happiness Issue  

In this issue, we explore how COVID-19 pushed us to explore happiness, gratefulness, and finding meaning and passion in work. We also explor...