Moving the needle

Staff Writer
05 Jun 2006


Day 1 began with the lion dance, a Chinese way of baptizing an important event with some good vibes.

IEC president John Janowiak carried the spirit into the proceedings by presenting a plaque to Zhang Chunjiang, the "excellent chairman" of China Netcom, for his "vision, leadership and guidance for this year's event".

CNC, the incumbent fixed-line carrier for north China, is the forum's host sponsor. Zhang and his team are understandably keen to leverage their role as telecom provider to next year's Olympics.

Yet while it might have been CNC's event, it was Wei Leping, the CTO of rival China Telecom, who took the gold for best audience responses. "There is a worldwide deregulation trend for IPTV, but unfortunately this has not happened in China," he said, drawing some knowing laughter. Later, he won a round of applause when he called on Internet companies to share the cost of building broadband infrastructure. "It's not just the operator that should build the network -- this is unfair! This is unsustainable development."

Moving onto a different part of the value chain, I found myself in the VC workshop, where I learn they not only have a lot of cash - apparently they can't find enough worthy investments in China - but they also have their own argot. Venture capitalists believe you have to own 20% of a company to "move the needle" - in this case meaning to get leverage over the investee company. Dan Gatti, a VC himself and an experienced tech executive, advised startups to "hold down your burn rate" and "extend your runway". Not quite matching metaphors, but I'll swear the needle moved.

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