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Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., MVP, DF/NPA, CNP

Keith Lau, Top International Development Authority and Entrepreneur, Founder Parametric Ventures Inc.

This week, Stephen Ibaraki has an exclusive interview with Keith Lau.

Keith LauA Microsoft veteran of over 10 years, Keith Lau spent most of his career based at the Redmond Corporate headquarters, where he had taken up senior roles in Development and Program Management. Focused primarily on communications, content delivery and scalable, high-availability servers, Mr. Lau had played leadership and management roles in marquis Microsoft products such as Microsoft Exchange Server, as well as invented several patented technologies for the company. In 2001, he joined the elite Xbox 1.0 launch team, where he led the design and development of the end-to-end content delivery system. For the next generation Xbox 360, Mr. Lau successfully realized his vision of using automated processes to create developer interfaces for Xbox Live, which significantly reduced development cycles, and minimized issues originating from human error.

With a penchant for creative and start-up efforts, Mr. Lau became part of a 3-person incubation team tasked to help Microsoft start a new R&D center for the Windows Server Division in Shanghai, China. He helped interview a total of over 500 junior and senior candidates, and actively participated in recruiting the core team. Mr. Lau's main charter was to consolidate the division's China outsourcing efforts, and create a strategic roadmap for China outsourcing that can be replicated across the company. Based in Shanghai, Mr. Lau made frequent trips to Beijing, where he worked with VPs and C-level executives of top outsourcing companies such as Chinasoft; and to Redmond, where he collaborated with corporate groups and engaged in business development to bring more projects to China. By the time he left Microsoft, he had successfully built a stable China outsourcing practice with over a dozen clients, which employed over 100 outsourcing staff in Shanghai from a handful of top vendors.

In late 2006, Mr. Lau relocated back to North America and founded Parametric Ventures, Inc. to pursue creative entrepreneurship. He developed out of his passion for options trading and the idea that collective intelligence can improve a group's overall probability of success. Tipping Monkey is a website that fuses investing, education and collective intelligence, and primarily targets high school seniors, college students, and recent college grads.

Mr. Lau holds an Honors Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Computer Engineering and a Minor in Business Management from the University of Waterloo.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:40: What led to your interest in computing and business resulting in an Honors Degree in Computer Engineering and a Minor in Business Management from the University of Waterloo?
"....One thing I really liked about computers was that it let me realize my imagination without having to physically build something....I realized that a combination of technical expertise and business savvy could really open a lot of doors down the road...."

:04:12: Why were you chosen as part of an incubation team tasked with starting a new MS R&D center in Shanghai, China?
"....It was a total surprise for me. I wasn't really looking and stumbled upon the opportunity......I think three things set me up for this job: my personality, skill sets which I had at that time, and it was timing that made everything happen...."

:08:37: Keith shares some observations about his experiences while living and working in China.

:17:17: Keith comments, from a technologist perspective, on the rapid growth happening in China and Asia.

:19:47: Keith shares his personal observations of how he sees China technology leadership in the future.
"...Talking about technology leadership and how research and development will become in the future, my feeling is that a lot of these returnees - the top Chinese talent - are returning to China to lead local companies. Very notably the key areas of this happening are in research and development, software/hardware, and computing in general. Because of that, expect to see some formidable new home-brewed technologies coming from China in the near future...."

:30:10: Do you see the trend happening with some China companies that are home brewed to start becoming global and to expand beyond their China base because the environment is so competitive that it will actually make them successful outside of China?
"....I think there will continue to be huge offerings of that scale [my personal opinion] just because there is that demand and the business is there and because the population is so huge that it can support that kind of business need.....To think that China can continue to grow at 11 to 12 percent or more is just mind boggling...."

:34:00: Keith comments on the rise in interest among students to pursue Mandarin as the language to learn to try to stay competitive in the international business world.

:36:30: Share with us the stories surrounding the several patented technologies you invented for MS.
"....These are patents that I helped Microsoft acquire and I was part of a team....One of the patents is End-user Extensible email....Another one...I was part of the Xbox launch team. I was very closely involved with content delivery and content access. We have another patent that was filed that is still pending...."

:42:09: What valuable lessons can you share from your Xbox 360 work?
"....It takes a lot of teamwork for the creativity and for those ideas to become a reality...That plays a key part in any type of project or venture.....There are some key ingredients for success that are common to many of those projects...good planning, smart and passionate people empowered with autonomy and a healthy war chest of money....There is also an incredibly fulfilling feeling of seeing something develop from concept to reality...."

:45:27: Tell us more about Parametric Ventures, Inc.
"....It's a company I founded basically for the purpose of indulging my desire to convert some of my ideas into reality....and do it in a profitable manner. It's a company which is mainly focused on web-based projects. I like the web-based aspect because websites are extremely easy to access for people from around the world and it's a perfect vehicle to reach a wide audience which is not limited in a particular geographical area....Web-based projects based around social media and how people interact with content or with each other...."

:48:55: What value does provide?
" despite its funny name is really a finance and investing related educational site that I built.... was originally a sharing site. As it evolved I wanted an educational component to it....I wanted to provide a place for people to experiment with the stock market as a possible investment vehicle, without using real money....I wanted to build a site which users are not likely to outgrow...."

:55:52: In your current role, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions? How does this relate to business?
"....Growth....I never underestimate the power of the word-of-mouth....Burn rate management especially for a pre-profit company...."

:59:33: Provide your predictions of future IT/Business trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....Green Technologies....Server Virtualization....Social Networks in both consumer and enterprise.... Commoditization of Smart Phones and 'unlimited' data plans...."

:01:09:40: What are your top recommended resources and why?
"....On top of using the web as my main information acquisition tool, I mostly read periodicals to keep current..."