China Entrepreneur Lessons: The One Thing More Effective than a Pitch Deck

I’m grateful for a lesson in business that I have learned over the past year.

Behe in Beijing, on a cold winter day in January, 2017

There are differences between China and the United States in the startup culture and the business world. One of them concerns how the two cultures measure money and trust.

The difference is that in building a startup in China, trust is delivered through people and actions, and it can often take a longer amount of time for a founder to scale up an idea into a full company in China than it does in the US.

This is because trust is not measured in money, nor is performance immediately gained through the disbursement of funding.

In the United States, money is often a stand in for trust, and often people use money to measure the responsibility they are giving you to complete a task. Or, it measures the confidence.

This is why in the US you can have a huge budget and fail and in China you can have no budget, but a lot of trust delivered by many people who help you and you succeed.

Granted, there are investors in China that throw many millions of dollars at companies that are numerous and highly competitive with each other.

But that’s not true for 80% of the startups in China, in my amateur estimation.

I think what is true is that if you want to succeed with your business or project ideas in China, you must first start with an acute focus on a fixable problem, and solve little bits of that problem over the course of time, drawing into the solution the right help and people who are willing to learn how to solve that problem.

Over time, things take care of themselves.

Traffic flows like a river some days. Beijing Dongzhimen Bridge looking Southwest

There is a Taoist aphorism that goes something like, “I am surrounded by the flowing water, but I need only dip one cupful and drink for me to have my thirst quenched.”

If you live in Silicon Valley or San Francisco, or if you are an avid reader of tech blogs and the funding news that comes out of the states and Europe, I wonder if it gets a little annoying to see success measured in funding rounds.

It must be annoying. Funding as success proxy stories are so prevalent that they are now cliche and hardly worth paying attention to. They don’t tell you anything.

I think to be successful, it is important to think about the emotions of people: customers; competitors; investors; partners; collaborators and employees.

The world is still a little bit original and innocent in China. It’s a hard place to grow an idea, but that’s because life is hard. There is still something human about the scale of problems, and the way we approach them here.

If you are into helping people, this is the place to be.

And helping people is a lot more effective than a pitch deck in building your dreams.

A Beijing dog
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