Airport angst, October 18:
Before the Lord Mayor of London spoke to CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW CER (for this issue’s Q&A) he shared a few thoughts with a gathering of people at the Hong Kong Club.
As a man whose job it is to talk up the City of London and its stock exchange, the Lord Mayor was obviously willing to question the stringent listing requirements that have put Chinese companies off New York IPOs (“People feel sorry for the Americans because of what they have got themselves into”).
But Heathrow, London’s – erm, flagship – airport also came in for a bit of a bashing. “Heathrow Airport is negative for London in the same way that pollution is negative for Hong Kong,” the Lord Mayor observed.
The McDonald’s of Chinese internet cafes, October 22:
China tech-watcher Paul Denlinger’s post about the country’s decrepit internet cafes has been making the rounds among the blogging elite lately. Denlinger, in short, said that the majority of China’s internet cafes were terribly unpleasant places to spend your time: smoke-filled, poorly lit and generally dingy.
In a follow-up post, he asked why some smart entrepreneur hadn’t started franchising internet cafes on the scale of a McDonald’s or Starbucks. The opportunities are there for the taking.
It seems someone has been thinking just that for a while now. We note a news item in September’s Asian Venture Capital Journal (AVCJ) on Intel Capital’s second-round investment in BigCafe (China) Holding Corp. BigCafe (please, guys, lose the heavy Flash intro) was started in 2006 and has 1,000 net cafes around the country operating under its own brand. It plans to double that number by year’s end.
BigCafe doesn’t just run its own chain. It’s also apparently targeting some of those firetraps Denlinger fingered. It provides management services like staff training, marketing consulting and advising on property insurance and financial services.
The cafe chain certainly looks like it is in good hands, a sentiment that is echoed by Intel Capital. A company spokesman told the AVCJ that “BigCafe is poised to play a major role in the internet cafe industry and Chinese users will benefit.”