As widely expected, Softbank Technology Ventures announced that
is has increased its stake in Hong Kong-based ISP Asian Online to majority shareholder
status, giving it control of its operations in Hong Kong, Philippines and
the United States.
Softbank hopes to turn the flagging Asian Online around and make it “a
global ISP for Asians.”
“The operation will become more than a regional ISP,” said Kevin Randolph,
CEO and president of Asia Online.
Randolph told InternetNews that Asian Online will be a physical and
virtual community for the local and overseas Asian population.
“It’s more important to be Asian than being part of Asia,” said Randolph,
“Being Asian is enormously dynamic.” Randolph referred to the strong
business relationships between Asians worldwide.
“We want to do business in Asia and we want to connect Asians worldwide to
business opportunities in Asia,” added Randolph.
Asia Online intends to globalize by buying controlling shares of regional
and international ISPs and plans to set up offices in international cities
with strong Asian populations and business interests.
San Francisco was set up last week and Randolph indicated that the provider
would likely have offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.
“We are in the market to buy distribution,” commented Randolph. He said
that the company’s goal is to sneak underneath big incumbent telcos and
supply value-added services to SMEs that the telcos are failing to supply.
“We are going to assemble like minded individuals and leverage off our
assets,” said Randolph referring to Softbank’s stakes in Internet assets
like Yahoo!, E*Trade, Sage Networks, Comdex, ZDNet, Concentric, Frontier
Global Center, Buy.com, Verisign, Geocities and USWeb.
Speaking about the Hong Kong ISP market, Randolph pointed out that “there
is not much good in this market. The [ISPs] that are good are small.”
“The management team is essential,” he added. “I’m more interested in
buying competence and relationships rather than assets.”
Randolph has a reputation for turning tech companies around, such as US
providers Whole Earth Networks and Netcom, and has brought in a management
team of 20 professionals from the US to beef up Asia Online’s marketing,
sales, human resources, technology, product development, billing and
“We brought in customer services reps and HR people to train local
trainers,” said Randolph, “Teaching people how to be customer-centric is
Softbank’s Asian Online has some new products and services that include IP
telephony, value added web hosting and e-commerce solutions branded as
LiveWeb, and a fax-based e-mail service dubbed E-Centric.
Randolph summed up, “We want to build a reputation for being a reliable
cost-efficient Internet related communications solutions company.”