Monday, August 28, 2000

The New Economy: Take Back the Night at IandI

It's time to take back the night at IandI. The little community that grew has vision and lots of it... all the vision of "the growth of the Internet Industry in Asia!" But it lacks something, it lacks real leadership from you and me. IandI provides us with the vision and now our leadership role starts with action. In the New Economy vision is a given. If you don't have vision, it's over, so action is where it's at. It's up to us to get into action at IandI. It's up to us to get people to shut up.

I have now been attending IandI for just over one year, where I have been making observaions. IandI is like a laboratory -- a microcosm of the Hong Kong Internet scene. Otherwise it wouldn't attract the people it does, especially on big-ticket nights like August 24, when Matei Mihalca, VP Asia Pacific Internet Research, Merrill Lynch spoke. It was the "Who's Who" of Hong Kong Internet entrepreneurs sprinkled around the room. However I have repeatedly observed at IandI people talking during the speakers' presentations. A trivial issue, one might think, but every week, all the time, people disturb the event by talking -- and it's telling of Hong Kong.

I am not talking about quiet whispers in the back of the room, either. I am talking about loud, disruptive conversations. The people who contribute to this are downright rude, insensitive and selfish. Some evenings it is impossible to hear the speakers, who have taken valuable time out of their lives to share ideas, yet people sit there and take it! Every week us, attendees at IandI, contribute to this behavior by tolerating the offending parties. That's absurd -- this is our Internet community. The organizers of IandI have attempted to tackle this issue and I am calling on the community to help them out. I assert that the problem is a symptom of the Hong Kong Internet community's lack of real leadership. We need to demonstrate our own leadership and initiative to help IandI resolve this issue.

People talking at the back of the room demonstrate indifference towards IandI's vision and the speakers' ideas. I can only conclude that these people feel IandI's vision to be subservient to their own self-important agendas. Yes, part of IandI's purpose is to network, but at least have the courtesy to take your conversation into the lobby. When I see so much disregard for attendees sincerely trying to gain value from a speaker's ideas, it tells me the Hong Kong Internet scene has a serious respect problem. Why bother attending IandI if you have no intention of listening to the speakers? To serve your own self-interest? To be seen? Please grow up. How do you know that some member of the audience might not be the one holding the purse strings for your startup or your next job? If there is going to be any real progress in this Internet community we had better start thinking "Win-Win, and that we're on the same team. When the back-of-the-room pests chat up a storm at IandI they're destroying the team, never mind just plain ruining the event for everyone else.

Some might say IandI is hardly telling of Hong Kong's Internet community. Some might say plenty of movers and shakers consider IandI small potatoes. My reply is that that's exactly the problem. We've got a superiority complex running rampant in Hong Kong. Elitist entrepreneurs who think they don't need IandI don't understand the New Economy. The New Economy removes barriers and makes people accessible, so that everyone can share ideas. Exhibit A: Robert Owen of (who frequents IandI while other Hong Kong leaders are conspicuously absent) is highly accessible. How often does that happen with a man of his stature in the Old Economy? IandI provides that type of environment. Heavy-hitter sponsors and IandI's rapid global expansion acknowledge the value of that environment. Discourteous people talking at the back of the room undermine it.

To those of you who sit there and take it: don't! If you plan to be a leader in the New Economy, don't sit around waiting for things to happen. Make things happen. Don't sit around hoping people will be quiet this week. Make them be quiet. Support the IandI organizers when they try to silence people and don't wait for them to do something if you hear people talking. It's time to pull together as a team and demonstrate some real leadership. It's time to take back the night at IandI.

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