RISE! Exactly what the tech sector needs now

This is my second time attending the RISE conference in Hong Kong. This year’s attendance dropped dramatically, owing primarily to the recent local peaceful protest, I was told. On June 16 about two million Hong Kongers marched on the street, with smaller scale marches occurring afterward. The RISE conference began on July 9, and right before I started my trip, colleagues and friends, worried about coming marches, asked me, “Are you sure you wanna go?” 

I went anyway. It was totally worth it. Like last time, I learned a great deal. RISE, I still believe, is the Asia-Pacific region’s best conference for building networks among tech entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world. Unlike other conferences, RISE made direct networking possible. Whether you’re a unicorn CEO, a developer, or a reporter, the conference makes it simple and efficient to sign up and schedule meetings. RISE’s app allows all attendees to directly message each other. Despite some messaging delay problems, the app does in fact make networking accessible and straightforward. In fact, I scheduled pretty much all of my meetings via the app.  

For a three-day conference, RISE has an ample variety of events to follow and watch. It  has stand-up speeches, group discussions, interviews, and startup pitches. A common complaint, however, might be that some events, the group discussion for instance, are far too short. A four-person panel discussion was allow approximately 30 minutes, meaning if three to five questions were asked, each guest would only have 1.5 to 2.5 minutes to offer a response. Thus the discussion was unlikely to go in-depth.  If a speaker focused on explaining what they do (which was the case most of the time), audiences were often not learning much. It’s a shame, because a forum ought to provide audiences with takeaways. After all, most of the time we are stuck at home growing our own businesses. This is a once-a-year opportunity to learn. Technology is all about boosting cutting-edge ideas and projects the future visions. We should not forget that. 

Ben Uretsky and WU Nan at RISE
Ben Uretsky and WU Nan at RISE

Personally, I had several takeaways. I moderated a Fireup interview session with cofounder of DigitalOcean, Ben Uretsky. admittedly know about this globally leading, developer-oriented cloud platform prior to attending RISE. I learned that Ben Uretsky and his brother Moisey, both developers, founded the company. After eight years, DigitalOcean is now on track to IPO and potentially become a unicorn. Here’s my takeaway! The key to DigitalOcean’s success is that they’ve focused on avoiding direct competition with giant such as Amazon Web Services, which utilizes a 2B business model. DigitalOcean was built for developers from day one and has remained dedicated to making products simpler, efficient, and safer. Nerds are easy to make friends with; once you win their hearts, they stick with you. As a result, Ben said the company spent little on marketing and they have been profitable since raising Series-B funding.  It’s encouraging to hear that a product built for a niche market can grow and become so promising. Later during networking, I met a group of developers from Eastern Europe. Evidently, even developers from as far as Hungary and Poland are well acquainted with DigitalOcean. 

Other takeaways of mine include the compelling stories of numerous Southeast Asian startups.  I was told that startup scene is booming in Thailand and its must-see regional event called Techsauce. Indian entrepreneurs are undoubtedly very active and willing to share. There was a discussion that fashion ecommerce site Zilingo CEO Ankiti Bose participated. It was so wonderful to see a web celeb figure like Ms. Bose brought so much data and wisdom to the table. 

Back to regional innovation, the instability in Hong Kong right now are caused by a series of policy disputes among which there’s Ms Carrie Lam’s ambitious plan of building a city on reclaimed land that may cost as much as USD60 B.  The plan is paralleled with Ms Lam’s Greater Bay Area blueprint to geographically connect Hong Kong with Shenzhen by the new city and expand the area into a tech hub which in her eyes would be perhaps even promising than the California Bay Area. 

Traditionally, Hong Kong has benefited from robust financial services and investing. It is a fact that the tech startup scene is still quite small there. Given Hong Kong is good at hosting international conferences and exhibitions (for example RISE) why not continue doing so? 

This is my second time attending the RISE conference in Hong Kong. This year’s attendance dropped dramatically, owing primarily to the recent local peaceful protest, I was told. On June 16 about two million Hong Kongers marched on the street, with smaller scale marches occurring afterward. The RISE conference began on July 9, and right before I started my trip, colleagues and friends, worried about coming marches, asked me, “Are you sure you wanna go?” 

I went anyway. It was totally worth it. Like last time, I learned a great deal. RISE, I still believe, is the Asia-Pacific region’s best conference for building networks among tech entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world. Unlike other conferences, RISE made direct networking possible. Whether you’re a unicorn CEO, a developer, or a reporter, the conference makes it simple and efficient to sign up and schedule meetings. RISE’s app allows all attendees to directly message each other. Despite some messaging delay problems, the app does in fact make networking accessible and straightforward. In fact, I scheduled pretty much all of my meetings via the app.  

For a three-day conference, RISE has an ample variety of events to attend and see. It  has stand-up speeches, group discussions, interviews, and startup pitches. A common complaint, however, might be that some events, the group discussion for instance, are far too short. A four-person panel discussion was allowed approximately 30 minutes, meaning if three to five questions were asked, each guest would only have 1.5 to 2.5 minutes to offer a response. Thus the discussion was unlikely to go in-depth.  If a speaker focused on explaining what they do (which was the case most of the time), audiences were often not learning much. It’s a shame, because a forum ought to provide audiences with takeaways. After all, most of the time we are stuck at home growing our own businesses. This is a once-a-year opportunity to learn. Technology is all about boosting cutting-edge ideas and projecting the future visions. We shall not forget that. 

Personally, I had several takeaways. I moderated a Fireup interview session with cofounder of DigitalOcean, Ben Uretsky. admittedly know about this globally leading, developer-oriented cloud platform prior to attending RISE. I learned that Ben Uretsky and his brother Moisey, both developers, founded the company. After eight years, DigitalOcean is now on track to IPO and potentially become a unicorn. Here’s my takeaway! The key to DigitalOcean’s success is that they’ve focused on avoiding direct competition with giant such as Amazon Web Services, which utilizes a 2B business model. DigitalOcean was built for developers from day one and has remained dedicated to making products simpler, efficient, and safer. Nerds are easy to make friends with; once you win their hearts, they stick with you. As a result, Ben said the company spent little on marketing and they have been profitable since raising Series-B funding.  It’s encouraging to hear that a product built for a niche market can grow and become so promising. Later during networking, I met a group of developers from Eastern Europe. Evidently, even developers from as far as Hungary and Poland are well acquainted with DigitalOcean. 

Other takeaways of mine include the compelling stories of numerous Southeast Asian startups.  I was told that startup scene is booming in Thailand and its must-see regional event called Techsauce. Indian entrepreneurs are undoubtedly very active and willing to share. There was a discussion that fashion ecommerce site Zilingo CEO Ankiti Bose participated. It was so wonderful to see a web celeb figure like Ms. Bose brought so much data and wisdom to the table. 

Back to regional innovation, the instability in Hong Kong right now are caused by a series of policy disputes among which there’s Ms Carrie Lam’s ambitious plan of building a city on reclaimed land that may cost as much as USD60 B.  The plan is paralleled with Ms Lam’s Greater Bay Area blueprint to geographically connect Hong Kong with Shenzhen by the new city and expand the area into a tech hub which in her eyes would be perhaps even promising than the California Bay Area. 

Traditionally, Hong Kong has benefited from robust financial services and investing. It is a fact that the tech startup scene is still quite small there. Given Hong Kong is good at hosting international conferences and exhibitions (for example RISE) why not continue doing so? 

There are many ways to innovate. Remaining open to possibilities and continually working and changing till the best result comes is a good strategy for a better future. 

Anyway, see you guys at RISE next year! 

Wu Nan
Wu Nan

Nan is the Founder and Editor in Chief of AllTechAsia. She is an award-winning journalist with honors from Foreign Press Association in New York and Hong Kong Journalists Association. For years she worked for top-notch media outlets including South China Morning Post and the Wall Street Journal. She co-founded the NetEase Annual Economist Conference (NAEC), a leading economic forum in China. She holds a master's degree in Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and is a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Write to her: nan[at]alltechasia.com

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