Malaysian Technology News
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By Julian Matthews


Is Silicon Valley losing its appeal?

Net revolution rolls through Asia
USA Today

Kiss-of-death career moves

Any day now, the e-bubble is going to burst
NY Post

Dot-Com's High Rollers

Cost of living in Silicon Valley
San Jose Mercury News

February 18, 2000

Living the DotCom Dream

The technically-proficient are hot commodities these days. Geeks are "in." Tinkering on the Internet, which one formerly did for the sake of pure fun, now translates into cold, hard cash.

All over the world, IPO fever is stoking up enthusiasm for the web-savvy. Computer graduates are being snapped up and Internet savants snatched from rivals. Even tech journalists are lured to cross lines. The road to dotcom dreams is paved with hot stock options.

And to think just a few years ago, dotcom jobs such as chief knowledge officer, e-commerce consultant or, lower down that rung, web-designer, were non-existent. In the year 2000, they're all in vogue.

"Dotcom jobs are definitely on the rise," says online recruitment founder Mark Chang. "This is an evident trend because there is more funding available for start-ups and more venture capital funds moving in to tap the potential in this region." He attributes it partly to the "spillover effect" from the dotcom craze in the US.

Mark Chang of

In Malaysia and Singapore, Chang says the main classes of Internet-based jobs on the rise are Web development personnel -- both creative-based occupations such as designers, as well as those involved in web architecture, such as database programmers and Java programmers. Sales and marketing personnel that are well-versed with technology trends and issues are also in high demand.

"Salaries for junior positions start from about S$/RM2-3,000, while senior and managerial positions are approximately S$/RM5,000 or more monthly," he said, adding that most Internet start-ups now sweeten the deal with stock option schemes.

Chang says the overall job market in Asia is "very vibrant", bouncing back after the economic turmoil of the last three years. "There is a marked increase in positions advertised in most sectors on and this is a reassuring sign that growth has returned to the job market."

Recent stories from the US, however, suggest that not all mouse-drivers are in secure seats. The volatility of the business has begun to show. Oft-cited Net darling cut 150 staff last month from its 7,500-strong ranks and has yet to turn a profit. Online software seller Corp cut 75 jobs, or 20 percent of its staff in the same month. Value America Inc, a Web retailer of computers and office supplies, fired nearly half of its 600 workers after sales targets missed forecasts last December.

"It's a well-known fact more start-ups fizzle out than succeed. It's just that there are so many out there right now, the picture being painted is unnecessarily rosy," says Zeffri Yusof, who left an IT newspaper to hop onto a Silicon Valley start-up last year.

Dotcom's risks & rewards

Zeffri Yusof: from Asian IT to Silicon Valley startup Zeff says the rule of the thumb in the Valley is that success stories are 1:1,000. However, he adds, that shouldn't dissuade the young, dotcom aspirant. "After all, there's always the ultimate exit strategy for burn-outs -- rejoin the mainstream and play 9 to 5 again."

After spending much time watching from the terraces, Zeff was motivated to take the plunge on to the actual playing field. "Now that I'm knee-deep in it, I have to say the main motivator for coming was the challenge to test one's ability in this hotbed of digital culture and entrepreneurship."

Zeff says the hot jobs in the Valley these days are web-designers and coders, Java and C++ programmers, database and network administrators, e-commerce strategists, project managers, sales and marketing positions.

"Lately though, thanks to the explosion of B2B, B2C and barter e-commerce plays, the more traditional brick-and-mortar jobs are also on the rise -- packers, inventory takers, couriers, help-desk and customer support. Being a skilled tech-user is definitely a plus in these areas."

Zeff says equal opportunity is "very evident" in the Valley. "Companies here are always on the lookout and they're not particular where you're from. It's still an out-and-out employee's market despite the large number of people who have made the switch. They come from all over Asia -- India, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan. That doesn't mean it's easy though, because the Valley companies are generally choosy, and rarely compromise on quality. But when it comes to dotcoms, there are certainly more jobs than people at any given time," he said.

He adds that the free-agent culture is also thriving because ravenous demand for skilled tech workers, support staff and per-project work is at an all-time high. "Web-based job brokers are having a field day importing talent. The shortage has also given rise to outsourcing just about every aspect of a traditional company -- ERP, ASP, HR, customer response, data hosting, you name it. The Valley looks to be creating newer 'best-known-methods' almost as much as it is breaking down traditional notions of corporate structure."

Zeff believes the bullish sentiment on the dotcom phenomenon is not without merit. "The constant cycle of entrepreneurial ideas and venture capitalism that is unique to the Valley will certainly be around for a long time. It's such an enthusiastic, self-promoting industry with lots of financial and intellectual muscle behind it."

To Valley wannabes, Zeff says acquired tech skills are just as crucial as traditional disciplines such as electronic engineering or software programming. "If your current choice isn't quite technical, don't fret. Even in a digital world there is always need for content people and artistic, linguistic, and analytical skills are always marketable."

Dream catchers's Nic Lim: fast, educated & ever mobile On the homefront, the frenetic pace of the dotcom life has already begun to lap our shores.

Entrepreneur Nic Lim, 24, who started portal player with three friends, says 16- to18-hour days are more the norm than the exception.Often staying overnight in the office, he describes the pace as both "painful and fun".

"It's an endless stream of negotiations, fact-finding, brainstorming and interviews. In a nutshell, passion-filled adrenalin overflow," says Nic who shuttles between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia as chief operating officer of His job also calls for keeping up with new hires, competitors, partners and potential alliances. Sandwiched between all these roles, Nic still found time to study for his law degree, which he just completed in December.

When first sounded out about the venture, Nic jumped at the chance to go in with old pals and current partners Patrick Grove and Ken Tsurumaru, both also 24.

Nic had known Patrick, the current CEO of, since the age of 19. Together with his one time flat mate Ken, now's chief marketing officer, the trio had run a retail business in Sydney reselling mobile, ISP and IDD services. "We sold the business when we were 22 for profit. The shop still exists," he says with pride.

Last July, Nic was in Hong Kong working for an Australian telco during his university holidays when he got a call from Patrick who told him to quit the job and move to Singapore. "We closed our first round of funding and the game was afoot. This wasn't our first business, and things were planned in advance, but the feeling was still fantastic," he said.

Shrewd marketing and branding strategy since has made an increasingly popular regional portal. Localized sites in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines are soon to be joined by new Web sites in Thailand and Australia.

Nic emphasizes that teamwork has been crucial to Catcha's success so far, and made up for their lack of management experience. He also suggests that to grow a business in the dotcom age, merging or acquiring what you do not have is the way to go.

Nic's advice to others wanting to follow in his tracks is to spend time reading online technology publications to get a feel of the dotcom life. "Don't wait until you are 100% sure. Sixty percent is plenty. For a start-up, though, try to have a team, as it is difficult to do it alone."

Nomads of the new age's Khoo Hsu Chuang: from business weeklies to online autos Assembling the right team was what brought journalist Khoo Hsu Chuang, 28, into the dotcom fold.

Chuang, as he prefers to be known, was a full-timer with a business weekly and moonlighting for Asian Auto magazine when an opportunity presented itself to turn the freelance job into an online career. He played the role of matchmaker between himself, publisher Mel Lee, a 20-year veteran of the auto industry and two old friends who had founded SensoryLabs, a small Internet consultancy, Nikt Wong, 28, and Patrick Lee, 26.

A common enthusiasm for cars, and perhaps an eye on an IPO led the dealing into the wheeling. As history would have it, sparks flew and Asian Auto Interactive, was born. Seven months into the venture, the car owner's portal hosts news, reviews, forums, listings and links, racking up a quarter million pageviews a month. "It is purely information now but we plan to roll-out B2C and then B2B solutions in coming months," said Chuang.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Auto team has been hawking their web-wares to venture capitalists as far as Singapore. "Pitching for funds is difficult if one is selling a concept play. You have to constantly fine-tune the business plan and presentations, which requires a lot of your time."

As for content specialists, Chuang laments the dearth of talent. "It's not easy finding car-crazy, Net-heads who can write," he said. "But top people are valuable commodities and we are finding that one good person usually brings in others. Traditional skill sets in industries like marketing and media are also valuable in the web-sphere."

Chuang, who also read law in Britain, worked in a merchant bank and a tax consultancy, said dotcom jobs may not be for everybody. "The long hours and inherent uncertainties are there, but the upside is that everyone counts. Unlike a traditional business, reward, like the pace of the business, is quicker than typical."

Zeff, Nic and Chuang are typical nomads of the new age -- the tech-savvy communicators of the millennium generation -- migrating across borders, age gaps, industries and traditional occupations.

Zeff sees a future in which the Asian talent pool will be in constant flux moving from one dotcom-magnetized hub to another around the world.

"There are so many new technological and business avenues to explore, it's a matter of being first-to-market, facing competition, enduring the shakeout and then getting back to the drawing board. The key is to be tech-aware. As long as you can sell yourself and be willing to work like a dog ;-), then you've got what it takes to live the dotcom life."

Published in CNET Asia, Pg 1 | Pg 2 | Pg 3 | Pg 4

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