So you melt when you hear Silicon Valley yet you haven’t checked whats on the other side of the globe? Hah
Asian cultures are 100% different then Western ones. Imagine, you can see only with one eye, living in Asia makes you finally -FINALLY!!- see with your second eye! Say what?
I’m European, still the USA is a bit different to me yet we all use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. We all watch Ellen or Luis CK while eating pizza on Friday night, after which we go party. Next day we wake up complaining on having too many calories that we need to burn down on Crossfit training, killing it with protein shakes. Then we get hyper excited because we just booked another skiing holidays, just like every year. Or we go sunbathing. Or we are just workoholics trying to beat Silicon Valley’s startups. Day like every day.
So how different is, for example, China? A lot. A LOT!
Below I will say about
- Culture and Startups
- How to deal with Chinese people
- Startup Industry
Culture and Startups
I used to live there for 2 years. It was enough to see and learn. You either love China or hate. But that also changes throughout a day. Let’s start with startups and social media.
Wechat. Many of you don’t know that Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp and more Western social medias are just blocked there. But there is Wechat. QQ. Weibo. And many more. Wechat is used on daily basis to communicate. I dare to say this app is outclassing Facebook. Simple in design, but so much more powerfull. Tencent’s messaging app is an aggregate of many functionalities that are simple to use. Imagine Whatsapp with QR code payment system, groups chats and mini programs. I like to give an example of homeless person. A situation: you see a homeless person and you want to give him (or her) a penny. But you don’t have any cash with you. In China that’s not a problem. Just because every homeless person has a phone (yes, that’s right). And every phone has Wechat with payment system. All you need to do is scan his (or hers) QR code to give some money. Simple! Or you can buy him plane tickets to Thailand to make him happy. Directly with Wechat! All in one app.
Mobike. Let’s continue the situation, as we all prefer to read stories instead of raw facts. 8 AM Monday, Chinese time. Beijing, capital city. You need to hurry up to get to work, but — oh not again, there is a heavy traffic — queue to ENTER a subway station. A line that starts below the ground level, where security is checking everybody before entering Metro, and it ends, not event at the front doors to enter subway station on ground level, but even across the street. Human traffic. So what do you do? You just catch a bike from $1 billion worth startup Mobike or Ofo that is just laying under your feet. You actually cannot decide which color suits you best today from 5367537 bike brands nearby you, but let’s take a red Mobike. And then you bike. However you want. Which way you want. You beep. Somebody may spit on you, but that’s normal. And here we are, by the elevators taking you upstairs to your office. Breakfast or lunch, doesn’t matter, 包子 or Baozi, chinese dumplings are there for you. Coffee? Well, it’s the only habit you have back from your Western times, so you go and take it from Xingbake, which is just Starbucks. You can have how many breaks you want, at noon don’t forget to take a nap! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and finally.. Friday.
Usually Chinese don’t party that much as Westerners, you can see that days are overcrowded with Asians while nights are crowded with Westerners. And they prefer Karaoke over pubs. Not really fond of alcohol. Hard to find any pizza place but Chinese BBQ works just perfect. If you insist on dancing, every third street may offer you a group dancing, usually avarage age is 60 yo, but you know what? They move! Tell your grandma.
They can spend a lot of money on cars, yet they can live in room without windows. They can be dirty, yet you see 5 workers cleaning one window. You tell them, build me a house! They’ll give you 20 exactly the same skyscrapers (copy paste).
Let’s have a look at what list of Unicorns says about their startups.
China. USA. China. USA. China. USA. That means something. And don’t forget that it’s 1,5 billion of people living there! And still we have India and Africa as another worlds, coming up!
We will make it because we are young and we will never, never give up. Jack Ma
Alibaba. If you are looking for a good and wise mentor, I recommend Jack Ma. Creator of Alibaba group. I’m sure you already ordered something from Aliexpress. Their ecommerce solutions and payment systems revolutionized the world. Founded in 1999, their valuation is over $200B. Jack Ma is a great success story, you should see some of his interviews on YouTube (or Youku). He was rejected 10 times from Harvard! Yet he had a passion and persistence that led him to success.
How to deal with Chinese people?
- Different experience. First of all, their culture is different because they were raised in different environment. When we had computers, they had nothing. They skipped that times and directly jumped to having a mobile phone which made them use messengers and app more often then emails or websites. That is also why you can do everything with just your phone.
- Guanxi. Trust. Chinese people when wants to make a deal with you, need to trust you therefore they would want to meet with you several times and make friendship. Expect a lot of messages with emoticons.
- Be polite! Being direct is not Asian thing. Often asking about deals might seem rude.
- Just have someone speaking Chinese. Trying to get some bureaucratic stuff done? Better ask for help and usually things are different in order and nobody will be able to explain to you in English!
The weird fast paced development in China made their startup industry lacking of fundamental things such as infrastructure. But they have a will to go no matter what. They might do 10000 more startups then Western, most of them are neglected but those few will win and that’s enough.
It is difficult to enter their market, Western companies certainly need help at least from somebody who used to live there. And they have to learn that not everything is perfect.
I learned another lesson. We are too conservative, trying to keep every old building as it is, while Chinese prefer to demolish and rebuild again the same one. It’s going to be stronger, better and as a matter of fact, it is a place that matters, not rocks and sand. They are not afraid to demolish, change and make something new. Because for them change is always something good, no matter the after effect. Maybe that’s why they succeed so fast. Because they actually do something.