Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say | Hong Kong protesters set fire outside court buildings, threw petrol bombs and spray-painted graffiti on government buildings, marring what was otherwi

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say

Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say
Peaceful Hong Kong march marred by fire outside court, police say
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Australia braces for more fires as extreme temperatures predicted

Australia braces for more fires as extreme temperatures predicted

'I slept in a cupboard for three months'

'I slept in a cupboard for three months'

The BBC's weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Mathias Mikkelsen, founder of Norwegian tech company Memory.

Mathias Mikkelsen was so keen to get his business up and running that he slept in a cupboard for three months.

Back in late 2013, the then 23-year-old entrepreneur had moved on his own from Norway to Silicon Valley in California, to try to secure backing for his start-up idea - an online project and time management tool called Timely.

There was just one big problem for the Norwegian - he didn't know a single person in the wider San Francisco Bay Area.

"At the time there wasn't really a tech start-up scene in Norway, so I decided that moving to Silicon Valley - the tech capital of the world - would be the best thing for me to do," says Mathias.

"But I don't know anyone at all out there. So when I landed human instinct kicked in and the first thing I knew I needed to do was make friends. Then I realised that most people meet friends via work or at college, and I wasn't going to be joining a workplace or going to be a student."

So faced with the prospect of getting very lonely very quickly, Mathias devised a cunning plan.

"I decided that I would hire rooms in shared Airbnb houses, and move somewhere new every week," he says. "That way, law of averages, I would start to make friends."

Thankfully for Mathias his idea worked, and over the following months he slowly built up a circle of mates. But his next challenge - the holy grail - was to get himself into a "hacker house".

A hacker house is a property shared by a number of similar young tech entrepreneurs, who are all trying to get their business proposals off the ground. The idea is that everyone can help each other and share advice, inspiration and contacts.

In mid-2014 he was finally able to get himself into such a property in Silicon Valley, but there was a catch - all 15 of the proper beds were taken. So if he wanted in, he would have to sleep on an airbed in a windowless cupboard.

Mathias, now 29, says he jumped at the chance. "I slept in that cupboard for three months. Did I feel stupid or embarrassed? Not all all.

"Being in the hacker house was invaluable. It pushed me so much as an entrepreneur. It was extremely valuable and without it I don't think I would be where I am today."

Fast forward to the present day, and Mathias' Timely app is now used by more than 5,000 companies across 160 countries.

Born in the far north of Norway, Mathias was raised in a town just outside the capital Oslo.

As a child he says that his initial dream was to become a professional football player, specifically for the English team Manchester United, but then as a teenager he discovered that he was much better a computer programming.

While still at secondary school he started to get paid to design websites for companies on a freelance basis. Mathias says his parents were initially not happy about this, "until I got my first paycheque".

Leaving school at 18, he then worked for a number of digital design companies in Oslo, where his work including making the in-flight entertainment system for airline Norwegian Air, and a Facebook campaign for charity Unicef.

But wanting to be his own boss, and wishing to develop his own business idea, he started work on Timely. Mathias launched its first iteration in May 2013 while still living in Oslo, but "nothing happened".

"I got some likes on Facebook, and some thumbs up from friends, but no real customers signing up," he says. "It went completely to hell. I'd put my all into it, night after night, then it launched and all I could hear was the sound of crickets. It was devastating, it takes the breath out of you."

With his savings running low, Mathias says he realised he "only had one more shot" at making Timely a success. So it was time to place a big bet - he sold his apartment in Oslo to raise more funds, and moved to Silicon Valley.

After his time in the hacker house, and working with a fellow programmer in India, Mathias launched the second iteration of Timely at the end of 2014. Sales to businesses - who pay a subscription then slowly started to grow.

A year later, Mathias decided to move the business - which he called Memory - back to Oslo. "While there was no tech start-up scene in the city when I left, it has subsequently boomed. Oslo is now a great place to find tech staff."

Backed by $6m (£4.6m) of funding from investment firms in the US, UK and Norway, Memory now employs 45 people, and has annual sales of more than $2m.

Entrepreneurs like Mathias "tend to have certain innate characteristics when compared with the general population", says Brian Morgan, professor of entrepreneur at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

"This means that they are more likely to take risks and grasp opportunities.

"In the early years of product development it's always about resilience - the ability to keep going when the outlook looks bleak - and also self-reliance - the capacity to be resourceful and confident enough to depend only on yourself.

"Renting a cupboard in Silicon Valley to help get a start-up business to first base would seem to me to be a perfect example of the persistence and passion needed to become a successful entrepreneur."

Looking back on his three months living in a cupboard, Mathias says it was "a crazy time, but super cool". He adds: "I was working every minute of every day, so I honestly didn't care where I was sleeping."

Ukraine: Paris talks with Russia aim to end eastern conflict

Ukraine: Paris talks with Russia aim to end eastern conflict

The leaders of Russia and Ukraine will hold their first face-to-face talks in an attempt to tackle five and a half years of conflict in east Ukraine.

More than 13,000 people have died in fighting between government forces and rebels backed by Russia.

Now there is hope of a breakthrough after Ukraine withdrew from three areas and accepted a series of conditions.

President Volodymr Zelensky will join Russia's Vladimir Putin in Paris, along with the leaders of France and Germany.

Elected with a landslide earlier this year Mr Zelensky built his improbable campaign around bringing peace to eastern Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky's strategy since has focused on trying to restart talks with Moscow. But for that to happen he has had to agree to Russia's conditions and that has triggered some angry reactions among his opponents.

Ukraine's military has, at Russia's insistence, : Stanytsia Luhansk, Petrivske, and here at Zolote.

Tough orders for soldiers at the front

To reach the new Ukrainian army position at Zolote you have to clamber through freshly dug trenches.

A month earlier it was just a field.

Now, the machine-gun position is being manned by Private Oleksiy Kravchenko, who could just about see his old position in the distance. It's a line of trees.

My interview with Private Kravchenko at Zolote gets off to a difficult start.

Unit commander Ruslan Sulymenko has already complained off camera about my "provocative questions". His nervousness is part of the Ukrainian army adjusting to a new reality.

As a soldier it must be very difficult to receive an order to pull back, I suggest.

"Just say it was difficult physically," the commander suggests from the shadows.

The private's response was reserved.

"It wasn't that hard work physically," he says. "But in terms of our morale it was tough as so much effort had been put in to getting and maintaining those positions."

For his commander it was too much. "Don't use that bit," he instructs us before continuing our trudging tour around the trenches.

Russia has been arming, funding and many would say directly controlling the rebels.

After years of doggedly and defiantly holding the line in the face of Russian aggression these soldiers have been given new orders.

On paper the one-kilometre withdrawal applies equally to both sides but in practice it has disproportionately affected Ukrainian positions.

Ukraine confronted by difficult road-map

President Zelensky has also had to accept what is known as the Steinmeier formula. It's complicated and contested stuff.

Effectively it is an attempt to sequence implementation of the Minsk peace agreements, signed in 2014 and 2015 at the height of the fighting.

The Steinmeier formula states that immediately after elections are held in rebel areas, provided they are judged fair by monitors, they are given "special status" and a form of autonomy under the Ukrainian constitution.

The key contested issues are at what point Russian-backed forces leave, and at what moment the Ukrainian authorities regain control of the border, which now separates rebel territory from Russia, and can prevent more weapons coming in.

Why Ukraine has big reservations

At the heart of Ukrainian concerns is that they grant special status to the rebel areas of Luhansk and Donetsk and get nothing in return; that Russia "manages" elections so its candidates win, continues its military presence, and refuses to hand over control of the border.

The combination of the disengagement, Steinmeier and .

There have been demonstrations in the capital Kyiv, and President Zelensky's opponents have issued statements listing "red lines" that the president should not cross.

There is also a sense that President Zelensky, just six months into a five-year term, is in a hurry to cut a deal. Though his ratings remain high, they've started to fall.

Among some diplomats there's also alarm at what some see as Mr Zelensky's naive, overly trusting approach to negotiating with President Putin.

"I think his desire to establish a quick peace may be accepted by Putin as a weakness to use against him," Ukraine's well-regarded former deputy foreign minister, Olena Zerkal, told me.

"I don't believe in good faith in respect to Russia and that's why I have no intention to be part of it."

Ms Zerkal tendered her resignation in protest and last week it was accepted by the cabinet of ministers.

Tangible signs of progress

In Zolote the streets are quiet: in part because it's cold, in part because those people who could escape the front line have done so.

We stop at the local shop where Viktor is overseeing things. He used to live inside what is now rebel territory and owned four shops, a bakery and some agricultural land.

Forced to flee by the rebels, he lost his businesses and has been sleeping on the couch of his only remaining shop. He fumes at the idea that it is Ukraine making the concessions.

"They're the ones who should retreat." he tells me. "This is our territory. They should go back to the other side of the Russian border."

They may not mean much to Viktor but there have already been several dividends from President Zelensky's new approach.

, with all of Ukraine's most high profile detainees sent home.

Then last month .

On the ground the most tangible sign of progress is the bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska.

It's the only crossing point between the self-declared rebel republic of Luhansk and Ukrainian government territory and was badly damaged in fighting in 2015.

Crossing became long and tortuous for the thousands of old people who had to go into government territory to pick up their pensions.

After disengagement in the summer and then re-building work, President Zelensky was there two weeks ago to reopen the re-engineered bridge.

"Tanks will not be able to pass over the bridge as it is too narrow. But an ambulance can easily pass over it," he said in a ceremony broadcast on his Facebook page.

Little hope of peace

The bridge is now much easier for the miserable procession of wheelchairs, the elderly and their helpers to use.

Among them is Tamara Nikolaevna, 69, who has just picked up her pension.

Tamara has family fighting on both the Ukrainian army and rebel sides and, for her, peace seems a very distant prospect. She cannot imagine her relatives sitting around a table, let alone shaking hands.

"They all think they're defending a country," she says with a shake of her head.

As for the two presidents, it is clear who she prefers.

"We love Putin," she replies without hesitation. "Zelensky smiles but in politics he's a clown."


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