Embrace Failure, CyberWorks Exec Tells Hong Kong

HONG KONG (03/16/2000) - A top executive of Pacific Century CyberWorks Ltd.

(PCCW), the high-flying Internet holding company building the Hong Kong CyberPort, said today that Hong Kong needs to change its business culture to foster innovation.

The territory's traditional business establishment is too unforgiving for the kind of risk-taking Internet startups that have emerged from Silicon Valley, said Alex Arena, group director of PCCW, speaking at an Internet infrastructure conference here.

"We have to, as business leaders, let people have a go at it, and if they fail, don't overly criticize them," Arena said.

Another major challenge in responding to the Internet and e-commerce opportunity is the shortage of talent, he added.

"The thing that will hold up our growth and every Internet company in Asia is people," Arena said.

PCCW's CyberPort is designed to spur innovation and attract talent, and already has helped to jump-start the Internet economy in Hong Kong, he said.

Arena marveled at the sudden blooming of high-tech investment in Hong Kong, which he said has grown from almost nothing one year ago to half of all transactions on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong today, Arena said. Hong Kong's traditional business world has been dominated by the property, manufacturing and finance industries.

"Nothing seems to have generated interest in that sector more than the CyberPort," he said. "Hong Kong's technology culture is in its infancy stage, but it's growing rapidly."

Given the right climate, Hong Kong's entrepreneurial energy and dynamic capital market will make it the best place in Asia to quickly raise capital and develop new technology ideas, said Arena, who previously served a long tenure as Hong Kong's director-general of telecommunications.

"Today, it's taken for granted that the world's leaders in the Internet will want to come to Hong Kong and partner in Hong Kong," Arena said.

PCCW has lined up Intel, Microsoft, and 13 other large multinational partners for the CyberPort, along with 150 smaller companies, Arena said. Through a partnership with U.S. Internet investment company CMGI Inc., PCCW will bring to Asia all of CMGI's affiliate companies and invest in other ventures in the region. [See "CMGI, Pacific Century Lay Out Asia Strategy," Jan. 25.]PCCW plans to launch later this year an Asia-wide broadband multimedia network called Network of the World (NOW).

Other speakers on the opening day of the Hong Kong Information Infrastructure Expo & Conference here echoed Arena's high hopes for the Internet and e-commerce in Hong Kong and China.

Executives of Cisco, PSINet, and MasterCard International pledged major investment in the region, which they said is emerging as a major market.

Chung-Jen Tan, a professor at the University of Hong Kong and a longtime IBM researcher who developed the Deep Blue supercomputer, said the proliferation of non-PC devices will turn Internet geography upside down.

"The world of e-business will soon be centered around Asia," Tan said.

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