Learning about Outblaze, a Hong Kong Web Conglomorate

Opportunities in Asia’s Web Industry
Yat Siu, founder and CEO of web conglomerate Outblaze, gave me a personal tour of his office, where I was able to learn about some of their products, and have larger discussions about the web industry in Asia.

Just a few months ago, I spoke at Singapore, and tried to connect with web professionals, my mission? to Understand the unique Asian web market, and want to tell this story to Silicon Valley, where most of my readership comes from. I like to remind my friends that despite the fact that only 10% of China’s population is on broadband connections, they already outnumber by sheer size all of North America’s internet user base –this will only grow. Although critics suggest that it’s difficult to monetize, the opportunities for a Web Strategist to tap into Asia’s massive user base are going to come very quickly. Check out all my posts tagged Asia or Global Web to learn more.

With much of the focus being on financial services and real estate, Hong Kong’s web industry still has room for growth. As Web Strategists seek to expand their brands globally, they will need to find partners that understand how to implement a web strategy for a market in Asia, users are different.

Observations of OutBlaze:
Outblaze is a conglomerate of several web companies that offer a variety of services such as communication infrastructure, online communities, professional services, and internet advertising. Most interestingly, they’re one of the few web services companies in Hong Kong of this size, and could be a resource for the global web strategist.

They’re situated in the beautiful CyberPort, a massive mixed-use development that includes mix use of 4 large towers, media and technology services, residential towers, and even a shopping and entertainment mall all on south Hong Kong island, close to Aberdeen. Also home to Microsoft, It’s very scenic, modern and clean, you’ll be amazed at the public photos of Cyberport.

The Outblaze brand is understated, a few friends in Silicon Valley looked at their website (myself included) not realizing that many of the products are not listed, there’s actually a suite of offerings in this conglomerate of 300 employees. Typical of many of the humble Asian entrepreneurs, it’s always a challenge to find out the track records of leaders, I found out that the leadership team is composed of several internet savvy partners that each have serial successes under their belt. There are several companies that have been acquired into this group, resulting in a diverse product set. As brands shift to require a truly global focus, the need for experts that understand the Asia web experience are going to be needed.

I didn’t spend enough time on each of their properties to provide in-depth analysis, however here are the four major families within the group: 1) Media and consumer group that offers brand experiences on top of white label platforms, 2) A Consumer services group that offers ISP services, eTravel brands, and Small and Medium sized business services, 3) A Professional Services team that offers consulting, email services, and even a “blograting” widget. 4) Infrastructure and tools, from a mashup tools, wifi devices, and network security. Looking at the group in a holistically, they’re offering customers a suite of platforms and services for effective web strategies. Their competitors? small web shops who provide web strategy and production in the region and many from United States.

When asked, what product would you like to look at closely? I wanted to see the Asian online community SanrioTown, which is a brand extension for Hello Kitty, a very popular brand in Asia and around the globe, even for working women. Outblaze offers the platform, services, and management in this partnership. While I’m not particularly interested in the products (ok, maybe I am, but won’t admit in public), it’s intriguing to see how online communities are different than North American ones. There’s forums, interactive games, member blogs, ‘jumpcut-like’ video creation software, and cute brand experiences that you don’t see on American sites. Much of the interaction was user-website, I noted there’s an opportunity to encourage more user-to-user experience, as I’m seeing in other Virtual Worlds.

Being one of Hong Kong’s largest web shop, I encouraged them to be the first company to host a Lunch 2.0 community event, which started in Silicon Valley, and will spread around the world. I’ve outlined a blueprint for the event, if you want to try it for your company.

The Outblaze group: Several brands in the conglomoreateIbrahim and Yusaf at the Boat Dock at Cyberport, where OutBlaze isPicture 615Saying Hello to the Kitties at SanrioTown.comLearning about Sanrio Town, an online communityYat Siu, CEO of OutblazeHong Kong's CyberPort, a tech campus (home of Outblaze, Microsoft)CyberPort (Outblaze offices on floor 11)Kathy Sierra's work on the doorBlogarateYusafOutblaze crew on the way to Lamma islandOutblaze crew on the way to Lamma island

I took a few 2-3 minute interviews with some of the employees, Yat, the CEO included, watch for those over the coming weeks.