Saturday, April 19, 2014


去年 (2013) 10 月初,意門團隊及友人 Richard Lin 一起去了趟愛爾蘭都伯林 (Dublin) 參加WebSummit (今年改稱 The Summit)。回來後因諸事勞碌,遲至現在才有機會和大家分享一下內容。

先說一下 WebSummit 為何特別?

第一是,雖然2010 年才開始,但去年原本預期 6,000 人來,最後卻來了 10,000 多人,包括 900 多家新創企業 (startups)。以人數來說,這算相當大 (歐洲最大) 的相關活動,規模類似美國另個知名活動 SxSW

第二是參加者都非泛泛之輩。舉例來說,一些知名公司的創辦人都曾與會,或多次參加 (SkypeDropboxTwitterNetflixEvernoteKasperskyRackspace...)。科技界一些高影響力人物亦會來,如從 Motorola 轉做Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior、因熱心公益曾和 Bill Gates 夫妻同列時代雜誌封面的 U2 主唱 Bono、及PayPal 共同創辦人ElonMusk (他亦創辦了電動車公司 Tesla 及太空梭公司 SpaceX,介紹他的出場詞是:「目前成功將人類帶入太空的有:U.S., Russia, China, and Elon Musk!)。一些主要科技公司及創投也來尋找新技術或合作對象 (GoogleMicrosoftFacebookGoldman Sachs.. )。西方各大主流媒體也都沒缺席 (Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Wired, VentureBeat..)。去年 WebSummit 亦邀到愛爾蘭的總理Elon Musk 對談

第三是內容相當多元,只要是網創圈的人,幾乎都可找到感興趣的部分參加。以 2013 年來說,短短 2 天的活動,同時進行的除了五場不同主題的演講外 (分為Main, Digital Marketing, Developer, Cloud, Library Stage),還同時舉辦類似創業競賽的 Pitch (全球 200 團隊中選出數十個決賽團隊,第一名可得到台幣千萬以上的創投資金)、展覽及媒合的攤位 Start Alpha (Start 為已營運上軌道的公司,Alpha 則為還在發展模式及市場的新創團隊)、免費品嘗愛爾蘭全國美食的 FoodSummit、及讓眾人晚上進一步聯誼的 NightSummit。講廳則從50人座談式的小圖書館,到容納上千人的主講場都有。

可能有人會好奇,為何 WebSummit 有這樣的吸引力?這要從它的起源說起。

WebSummit 是一位愛爾蘭人 Paddy Cosgrave 2010 年發起的活動。他過去亦有幾次創業經驗。不過在收尾某個事業,尋找新方向時,和讀大學的妹妹聊天。意氣風發的妹妹因剛就任兩、三百人的學生會長,提出想邀些網創名人來和學生聊聊的想法。

剛聽到時他覺得頗 crazy,因為這些大人物怎會有空呢?不過後來轉念一想,也許他們會有興趣。此外,雖說大家平常在各自的創業圈內或許活動良好,但這些不同圈子彼此也少交流。若能在輕鬆、非正式的場合偶而做些私下交流,應該也不錯。

就抱著「幫助學生」及「促進交流」的想法,他開始一個人寫起 e-mail 及打電話。一開始邀到的是 Wikipedia 創辦人 Jimmy Wales, WordPress 創辦人 Matt Mullenweg, Craigslist創辦人 Craig Newmark, 美國創投始祖 Draper 家族第三代 Tim Draper 等人。而 2010 年二月, Paddy 已邀到歐洲各地約 25 位創業家,齊聚在 Dublin 聚會、交流。

當年 10 月份,當這些創業家/投資者把自己認識的人脈再帶進來時,第一屆的活動 (當時稱為,就從 450 人開始,持續成長起來了。一個令人感到 impressive 的數字是,從 2010 年來,參加人數從 450 成長為 1570, 3903, 10242,幾乎是指數型的成長。

我們是去年去 WebSummit 900 多家 startup 中,台灣去的唯一一家。可能是因地處歐洲,在台灣知名度亦還不高,所以我們成了少數有去 WebSummit 的亞洲團隊。

參加的緣起也頗特別。主要是某天我在臉書看到一則看似廣告的貼文,說要徵 10 組台灣創業團隊免費參加 WebSummit 展。點進去發現許多知名創辦人原來都去過,當下就先報名。主辦單位反應也快,立刻回 e-mail 約時間做簡短的線上 interview。沒多久就選了當天傍晚的時段。

和我對話的是位20來歲年青人。透過 Skype 他簡單的問了幾個問題:簡介一下你的公司及產品、為何你們獨特?為何想來 WebSummit?是否有問題想問?大概就這樣,簡單的家常問題,簡短就結束,似乎只是要確定我們真的有在 startup

談話時他背後幾位主辦單位的人走來走去,Paddy 也某一次來打招呼。感覺人沒有很多,而工作氣氛輕鬆。

幾天後就收到一封 e-mail 說我們獲選了,當下頗開心的。而詳細內容是,只要付兩人份的票 (共約 400 歐元),即可有份『Alpha』的展示空間,亦有三人份的門票可使用。


一旦報上了,該抱怎樣的心情或心態呢?主辦者 Paddy Cosgrave 覺得關鍵在「準備」。你在會場的每一小時,都該花兩小時來準備。

因我們是第一次參加,事前仍在忙 startup 內部其它事,準備並不充份,但仍是收獲滿滿。簡單說,那是個充滿「正面能量」的聚會,遇到的人都頗樂意交流、分享。交談的重點也都在「我如何協助你」而非「我能得到什麼好處」。

具體參加 WebSummit 的收獲部分,可能要再另文分享。不過回來後在Richard 協助下曾辦過一場WebSummit分享會。有興趣的朋友亦可參考分享會的影片及WebSummit 的相片。

[BLP] 主題講座 #11: Taiwan Startup in Web Summit 2013 () 長度: 01:06:09
[BLP] 主題講座 #11: Taiwan Startup in Web Summit 2013 () 長度: 01:36:57

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Little Random Acts of Kindness

A couple of days ago my wife and I left the post-delivery maternity center to move back home with our second child “lu”. It's now a good time to record some events around his delivery.

Lu was born on 19 March, more than three weeks ago. I was in Singapore at the time, with the plan to attend an academic conference. However, when I woke at 7am that day, I saw a SMS message from my wife, saying that she broke her water at 4am, and was moving to a local hospital.

I got up immediately to think about what next. I knew for sure I wasn't going to make it to the delivery. Although, I wasn't sure if I should get back as soon as possible. On one hand, my presence probably will help; on the other hand, going back means missing both the delivery and the rest of the trip, which may not be of material help to her at all.

While brushing my teeth and weighing on the options, my roommate at the hostel came out to get himself ready as well.

I hadn't a chance to talk with him yet, being busy in the past couple of days myself. The night before, he was also studying some materials, looking serious. I didn't want to disturb him then.

A brief chat revealed that he was in Singapore for a job interview, and happened to work in similar fields. I told him why I was there, adding: “my wife is about to deliver,” so plans might change.

Why are you still here?” he exclaimed immediately, and explained: “this is the most important thing now, your wife needs you, and you're still here?"

You'll regrat for the rest of your life, if you don't go back now”. Years later, when I looked back, I will regret for missing out this moment. All other things, however looking important back then, will fade away, he said.

If he were I, he'd cancel all schedule and get on the next available flight.

It'll cost just a few hundred bucks for a ticket, and it's money you'll recover soon in your next paycheck. Will you let this stand between you and the most important moment in your life so far?”

He also reasoned: usually people go to business trips to either: 1. do works (to earn money) 2. make some social connections. But both are nothing in an event like this. You can always make up for the lost monetary or social costs, but not for the special moment.

I appreciated his advice greatly, and immediately went to change my flight to the earliest possible (mid-night of the same day). As I still had some time, I decided to go to the conference to explain.

I met some friends and were congratulated. They were all very kind and understanding. However, as I forgot to bring an electricity adapter, I was unable to re-charge my laptop to stay in touch.

I asked one lady behind the organizer's desk whether there were any adapters I could borrow. They apologized for not having it. However, she quickly pointed to another laptop from one of the staff that used an adapter. She said it was okay if I used it for a while.

I got to charge my notebook and subsequently got in touch with my wife on time, and learned about Lulu's birth at 14:08.

At around 10pm, I was at the airport ready to check in. However, I was asked by the security to check-in a small gift from a Singaporean friend, given to me just hours earlier. I didn't know what the content was until then: a liquid lotion for babies that unfortunately exceeded the carry-on limit.

I went back to the check-in counter to seek help. As I took a low-fare JetStar airline, any checked luggage costs an additional fee. The choices I faced were to either pay up a non-trivial amount to check in the gift, or leave it as trash and not carrying it onto the plane.

It was an unexpected decision I had to make.

I was already pondering about paying up, as I didn't want to throw away a friend's goodwill. However, while I was calculating how much it would really cost, the lady behind the counter suddenly said: “check your luggage, you don't have to pay.”

Don't have to pay?

When the airplane is full, we can check additional luggage for free to avoid the flight being crowded” the lady explained, without changing expressions on her face. “But this is only because the airplane is now full.”

I was thanking her in both words and heart, though she still acted very professionally.

On my flight back, I looked back at the various “accidents” that had allowed my return trip to be as smooth as it was, they were all “random acts of kindness.”

Without my roommate's reminder, it might take more time before reaching (hopefully) the same conclusion. Without the organizing lady's intentional help, it might have taken a bit more effort to contact my wife. Without the airline lady's quick wit, I could be facing the dilemma of “how worthy is a friend's gift?”

These were all random acts of kindness, that even the person who bestow them might not have been aware of how much impact it'll make on the person receiving it, given the particular circumstance.

Given my circumstance that day, I'll be forever grateful to these people, as they'll be part of my memories of how I decided to go back early to see my wife and our newborn boy.

This serves as a good reminder for us to be kind. We may never know just when, when a little random act of kindness can mean so much to a stranger.