Venture Capital in South Korea

Forbes has an interview with venture capitalist Tae Hea Nahm. Excerpts:

Q: How is technology being used differently [in Korea]?

Two areas in which they are technologically ahead of the U.S. is broadband penetration and broadband wireless. They’ve had 3G since late 2002, and Verizon is just deploying it now [in the U.S.]. Because they have an advanced infrastructure, it is interesting to see what new kinds of services are popular there with the understanding that it could happen in the U.S. or other countries. On the wireline side, what is popular is massive online gaming. Broadband enables you to do that. The U.S. is more console-based or PC-based, but I think the same thing will happen here because is it is more fun to play games with someone else than it is just with a computer. That’s what ubiquitous high-speed broadband allows you to do.

On the wireless side, what we’ve seen from Korea is that mobile video has not taken off as fast in Korea as we first thought it would. What has taken off is mobile music [over cell phones]. It makes sense–people spend a lot of time walking or waiting, and you can listen to music, then when someone calls it immediately switches over to the cell phone. You can carry an iPod, but it’s harder to carry multiple devices. If it’s all on a cell phone, that becomes the most convenient way. I think that a cell phone music player will become the dominant form. At the end of the day, you always have your cell phone.

Q: What sorts of interesting technologies are you seeing here in the states?

Mobile apps are one. Also, trying to use an ever-improving infrastructure to deliver more services and solutions for enterprises and consumers. We invested in 5Square Systems; it’s a company that automates the front end of auto dealerships. It provides the software as a service solution to dealerships so they don’t have to build their own IT department. It’s also a way to simplify the whole sales process and make it more user friendly.

The Paradox of Plenty

The Economist writes:

When it comes to wasted wealth, and the problems that bedevil poor countries that are rich in natural resources, especially oil, there is plenty of blame to go around. Economists have long observed that such countries tend to do badly. In a study in 1995, Jeffrey Sachs, now of Columbia University in New York, showed that the resource-rich grow more slowly than other poor countrieseven after such variables as initial per capita income and trade policies are taken into account.

Experts have offered fixes for the economic aspects of this curse of oil for a while. Some governments have used stabilisation policies: when oil prices are high, revenues are set aside; when prices fall, governments use the funds to cushion the blow. A related idea is to park part of the proceeds from resources in offshore funds for the future. In theory, such funds would not only help spread the wealth over several generations, but also help avoid over-appreciation of the local currency. Some countries even disburse some oil revenues directly to every household, thereby ensuring that ordinary folk see tangible benefits.

Video on the Internet

WSJ writes that “as broadband connections proliferate, so do the opportunities for niche video-content providers.”

People can now watch thousands of movies, TV programs and other content whenever they want, using computers, cellphones and on-demand services offered by cable and satellite companies. Internet giants Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. are both making video search and other video features a priority. Moreover, technology companies from software giant Microsoft Corp. to start-up Akimbo Systems Inc. are making it easier to watch video content from the Internet on television.

All this is happening at a time when telephone companies like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are planning to use Internet technology to deliver television. Unlike traditional cable technology, which can only deliver a limited number of channels, distributors using Internet technology technically can make available an unlimited amount of content. AT&T executives predict they’ll have 1,000 or more channels within the next 18 months.

This explosion of new ways to distribute TV is scary for established media companies, because it’s threatening the commercial-driven business model that has supported the television industry since its inception. The greater the variety of content available from new sources, the fewer eyeballs will be watching traditional networks. Also, many of the new technologies, like video on demand, make it easy for viewers to skip commercials and for programmers to sell directly to consumers without having to go through cable or satellite operators.