The China Startup Pulse Podcast
Your Looking Glass into China and Asia Startup Ecosystem
The China Startup Pulse Podcast is an original weekly podcast for anyone interested interested in China’s innovation, business, and tech landscape. We showcase entrepreneurial stories, present key teachings from thought leaders, and analyze the strategy of the big tech giants.
Backed by Chinaccelerator, the first accelerator in Asia, we understand firsthand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in China — the struggle, the elation, the craziness, and the thrill of success. With that in mind, this podcast offers real, practical, and outside-of-the-box insights.
The China Startup Pulse is hosted by Oscar Ramos, Ryan Shuken and William Bao Bean, hackers and hustlers with years of experience in China’s startup scene.
Partner at SOSV and Managing Director at Chinaccelerator
William Bao Bean
General Partner at SOSV and Managing Director at Chinaccelerator & MOX
Managing Partner at Lean Venture Partners & Javelin.com
Evolution of Internet in China (1990s-2000s) and Staying Ahead of the Competition with Fritz Demopoulos, Co-founder of Qunar.com
With China having the highest number of internet users in the world with more than 750 million users, it is hard to imagine a time when there were only a few hundred users. Fortunately, we do not have to leave much to the imagination.
Our guest for today, Demopoulos, has witnessed firsthand the rapid rise of internet development and adoption in China. Before the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s and well before China became the dominant internet economy it is today, Fritz came to China and is one of a handful of experts, who has not only led multinational businesses but also established successful businesses of his own.
Fritz Demopoulos has been an entrepreneur and investor in the media and internet industry for over 15 years. He co-founded and exited Qunar.com, China’s largest travel internet company; and Shawei.com, China’s largest sports internet company. Fritz has also held senior positions at Neteast and The News Corporation. In today’s episode, Fritz dives deep into the early days of the internet in China. He shares his experience working in the media industry in China in the early days when people were still figuring out what the internet was. We also discuss the first-generation of internet entrepreneurs in China: how they started, what made them different, and more. We then move onto his own entrepreneurial journey in China. Starting a business in China as a foreigner is not easy, let alone a successful one. Fritz talks about how he managed to build his business in China by staying ahead of the curve, something that all entrepreneurs can learn from.
Building from Zero for Government, Venture Capital and Tech Startups; and Lessons from Storeroom to Super App: 8×8 Global Speaker Series (3/3) with Yaw Yeo and Cheryl Goh
Today we’re bringing you the final episode of our Chinaccelerator 8×8 Global Speakers Series where we invite some of the most accomplished members of the China startup ecosystem to share key lessons for startups in eight minutes or less.
Our theme for this episode is entrepreneurship insights. Our two speakers today bring with them a plethora of experience to share with our listeners. Stay tuned for the insights from Yaw Yeo and Cheryl Goh.
Yaw Yeo is the General Manager for International Product and Business for Alibaba Cloud. Prior to Alibaba, Yaw was responsible for new market expansion in the Asia-Pacific region for Twilio (NYSE:TWLO). Yaw started working with Twilio as an investor in 2012. He joined Twilio as employee #1 in Asia-Pacific in 2014 and witnessed Twilio’s growth from a startup of 50 employees to a publicly-traded company of 2,500 employees.
Cheryl Goh is part of the founding team at Grab. Starting in Kuala Lumpur as a one-man marketing team, she has set up the marketing practice across Southeast Asia for Grab over the last six years. Today, she leads marketing in over 300 cities, covering all of Grab’s business verticals including transport, food, payments and logistics. She oversees Grab’s marketing efforts across the region, leading a team of over 500 marketers across Southeast Asia. In 6 years, Cheryl has built the Grab brand into a household name across Southeast Asia, and played a critical role in the company’s growth and progression from ride-hailing, into the region’s leading super-app. Under her leadership, the marketing team has led the development of demand shaping platforms which drives Grab’s growth using technology and automation. She also manages Grab’s social impact programme and published Grab’s first social impact report earlier this year.
Being Focused, The Inspiration for Business Ideas, Why Mental Health Matters for Founders; 8×8 Global Speakers Series (2/3) with Patrick Lee, Fritz Demopoulos, and Patrick Riley
This is the second episode from our Chinaccelerator 8X8 Global Speakers Series, where we bring 8 influential speakers to share their insights and experiences in 8 minutes. We have some great speakers lined up for this episode.
Patrick Lee is a serial entrepreneur best known for being a co-founder and former CEO of Rotten Tomatoes (rottentomatoes.com), a leading entertainment website focused on movie reviews and news. He is an advisor to a number of startups including Casetify, ChargeSPOT, Instaread, Kiwibot, Oishii, WePloy, and Zeuss Technologies; and a mentor at a number of organizations including SOSV, Berkeley SkyDeck, Blue Startups, and Founder Institute.
Fritz Demopoulos has been an entrepreneur and investor within the media and internet industries for over 15 years. He co-founded Qunar.com, China’s largest travel internet company; and Shawei.com, China’s largest sports internet company. Fritz also had senior positions at Netease and The News Corporation
Patrick Riley is the CEO at GAN and Managing Partner and Co-Founder of GAN Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital fund. Most recently, he was on the executive team at Techstars, where he oversaw its business development. He started his career working for W.L. Gore and Associates and moved into the leadership of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. Patrick left the Red Cross to manage the West Coast sales and operations for a venture-backed healthcare company that had an exit before joining Techstars and GAN.
Fundraising during COVID-19: Dos and Don’ts, Transforming Crisis into Opportunity with Design, and How to Survive COVID-19 as a Travel Company; 8×8 Global Speakers Series (1/3) with Edith Yeung, Yiying Lu and Abel Zhao
Welcome everybody to another episode of the China Startup Pulse. We have a special one today. We are back with our Chinaccelerator 8×8 Speaker Series this year with eight influential speakers from all over the world to share their insights for startups in eight minutes.
In this week’s episode, our speakers will share their experience and insights as to how startups can weather through the storm that is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our three guests bring different perspectives given their diverse backgrounds.
Edith Yeung is a General Partner at Proof of Capital and advisor to 500 Startups. Previously, she was the GM at Dolphin Browser where she helped the company grow from 0 to 150 million app downloads. She has also led operation roles at several Fortune 500 companies.
Yiying Lu is one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. She is the artist behind the globally celebrated Twitter Fail Whale and the dumpling emoji. She has worked with hundreds of tech startups and entrepreneurs around the world, sharing her experiences and educating them about creative innovation.
Abel Zhao is the co-founder and CEO of TravelFlan, an award-winning AI and big data solutions company, empowering Fortune 500 companies including Samsung and China Mobile.
China’s Ambition on Electric Cars and The Brutal Competition, with Tu Le, Founder and Managing Director of Sino Auto Insights
With 1.3 billion people, mobility is a massive challenge in china, not just about the intension between traditional petrol cars and new energy vehicles, but also delivery services and mid-volume logistics. What makes China as an early adopter in technology-focused mobility sectors, especially in Electric Vehicles (EVs)? What impacts the adoption of new energy vehicles (NEVs)?
Our guest for today, Tu Le is the founder and Managing Director of Sino Auto Insights, a Beijing-based business intelligence and advisory firm that specializes in helping mobility companies develop tech-focused and innovative products and services. With over 20 years of experience in the industry from pure automotive to pure tech and finally combine both experiences together in China, he has very interesting insider perspectives to share with us.
During our discussions with Tu Le, we will take a look at how the government has focused on developing NEVs in the past 10 years, analyze the brutal competition between traditional automotive players and new technologies-powered EV brands. We also want to remind everyone that there’s another party who is joining this battle – big tech giants like Apple and Xiaomi. In the end, we shed the spotlight on startups by discussing the new opportunities.
How China Regulates Internet Economy and New Technologies with Sam Cai, Internet Legal and Policy Expert
Cyberspace has been regulated rapidly everywhere. China is constantly used as a reference. How does China create its Cyberlaw regulatory framework? Are these regulations conservative or forward-looking? Are regulations promoting or slowing down Innovation?
Today’s guest Sam Cai is a legal and policy expert in Internet-related legislation, intellectual property rights and WTO rules, involved in different Chinese and international institutions. Currently he acts as Deputy Director and Chief Researcher of Cyberlaw Center at one of the largest tech companies in China.
Sam gave us a big picture of China’s Internet regulations by digging deep into the approaches, limits, and opportunities. The reality is that a lot of International people still believed that a “Chinese partner” is necessary to run business in China while Sam shared that “they are just not aware of the open opportunities”. He also clarified the differences for foreigners and local players from the policy perspective. In the end, he explained the transition from the “Internet +” to the new Internet government plan “New Infrastructure”.
Unveil Impact Investing Under COVID-19, with Paul Meyers, Asian Digital Veteran and Investor
The general public is increasingly becoming more aware of the value of sustainability. How is the investment world reacting to that? Impact investing – investment that generates positive social or environmental impact alongside financial returns.
Today, we have a great conversation about impact investing with Paul Meyers, an Asian digital veteran with over 25 years of experience, who helped set up ADBVentures, the Asian Development Bank’s first emerging market impact fund. Paul explains what impact investing specifically means in emerging markets and extend the conversation to how the current COVID-19 outbreak will make a difference. He also introduces startup cases to illustrate what impact investors are looking at when making decisions.
Investing in Risks with Peter Mao, Co-founder of Panda Capital
Venture Capital is about venture and investing in startups that are doing something that has never been done. Still, a lot of investors think more about the risks associated with new technologies and business models that potentially will work.
Today’s guest clearly looks at the risky opportunities, not just as best for investment but the only ones worth considering. Peter Mao is Co-founder and Partner at Panda Capital. During his over 12-year experience in the venture capital firms, he has been part of the investment team behind companies like Xiaomi and more recently Mobike, a bike-sharing company where he led the Series B and eventually exited it at USD 2.7billion within just 18 months.
In this episode, Peter will talk about Panda Capital’s three preferred risky areas for investment, their data-driven investment approach and how he evaluates both external factors (e.g. market) or internal ones (e.g. team) during the Due Diligence process. He will also share the most common deal breakers he saw in the past for Series A companies.
How Snapask Started with a Facebook Page, with Founder Timothy Yu
You don’t need to code to launch a unicorn startup. Through a non-code or low-code MVP (Minimum Viable Product), entrepreneurs can easily validate the assumptions, understand customers’ real pain points and test whether the business model will work or not. That simple lesson is ignored by many founders and is behind the failure of countless business initatives. Today’s guest Timothy Yu, founder and CEO of Snapask, an on-demand tutoring platform labeled as “Uber for Tutors” which just raised $35M in Series B, did not know about low fidelity prototyping. But he used the concept before he went through the SOSV Chinaccelerator’s Batch 8 program.
In today’s conversation, Tim will share how the company has grown from a simple Facebook page to an arising edtech company with over 100 employees, operating in 8 Asian markets and reaching almost 300million users. Tim will also give us a deep analysis on its two users – tutors and users and the data-driven strategies to acquire and retain both of them. Is technology shaping the future education industry? “How people can attain the ability of self-learning and apply them in life is going to be one of the most important skills in the future”, this is what Timothy believes and what Snapask is trying to offer.
Enabling Smart Cities: The Tech in the Driver’s Seat with Bruce Bateman, Chief Technical Advisor at Lite-On Technology
Rapid urbanization and population concentration are challenges for many cities, especially in Asia’s fast-growing economies. Technology and data are helping to make our cities more efficient and sustainable. We are building smart cities, which integrate technologies to optimize every aspect that impacts every individual’s life, from waste management, utilities, transportation, education, food access and more. Today’s guest Bruce Bateman is a technology veteran, a serial CEO and CTO, who has seen the technology from hardware to new media, or the most advanced networking protocols. He has been involved in the launch of nine startups.
Today, he is leading the drive for Smart City technologies as Chief Technical Advisor at Lite-On Technology, a leading player in the smart city space. In this episode, Bruce will talk about how he helps city planners deploy the appropriate technologies to build smart cities, specifically in terms of transportation, education, and aging populations. Bruce will also share the role of technology and why solving real problems is something that really matters. “It won’t happen without involving people”, this is why Bruce is more willing to call them “smart communities” rather than “smart cities”.
How to Recruit and Manage A Strong Startup Team with Lucas Englehardt, Serial Entrepreneur with Successful Exits
There is no such a thing as a solo entrepreneur and the fast growth of startups requires strong teams to execute. Based on our experience, not having the right team is one of the top reasons why startups fail. This leads to the frequently asked questions: How to attract the right candidates? How to keep team morale high when things are not following the plan? And how to help talent develop to work efficiently? Today we talk with serial entrepreneur Lucas Englehardt, who founded O2O food delivery startup Waimaichaoren in 2012. After successfully scaling the business to 18 cities, he finally exited the company to Delivery Hero in 2016.
Having managed a company with 400 employees, Lucas will talk about his secrets in people management, especially for sales teams. Besides the best practices, he will also shared some of the hard learn lessons, such as hiring someone who did not fit in the team culture. As an early explorer in the food delivery space in China as a foreigner, Lucas also took us back to the early days when he just got into the industry and describe the creative strategies used to acquire clients. He will go deeper to explain how he found the need to change the team mindset about “Experimentation”, “Copying” and “Failing fast”.
Gamification is Not Copying Games with Monte Singman, iDreamSky Technology
“Most of the gamification activities happening in the market are superficial” This is a statement from today’s guest Monte Singman, a game veteran with 33-year industry experience. So what’s the real meaning of gamification? How should people include game dynamics into products? Monte has an insider and interesting point of view about games and gamification.
In today’s episode, he will address the importance of fun, a key element for the successful gamification which is sometimes overlooked. And the best stage for gamification is when users feel comfortable to spend the time without restrictions. Currently Monte is the VP of international business development at iDreamSky Technology, one of the largest independent mobile game publishing platforms in China, and he has brought over 100 mobile games into Chinese markets. We will also talk about his business path from Silicon Valley to China and the technology that he believes will change the game industry.
The Go-to-Market Playbook by NIU: a NASDAQ-listed Chinese Smart E-Scooter Company
Today we talk about the global mobility industry with Joseph Constanty, Director of International at NIU Technologies, a Chinese company that produces and sells lithium powered two-wheeler scooters. Starting from Zero in 2014, NIU has sold over 810,000 vehicles worldwide and continued their international expansion in 34 countries. NIU also went public on NASDAQ in 2018 which is only 4 years after it was founded. Why is e-scooter a good solution for urban transportation problems? How did they get started and what’s the reason behind its fast growth?
In today’s conversation, we will address these questions and also talk about how NIU uses data to improve the hardware products and user experience. Stay tuned until the end where we will take a deep look at their unique go-to-market approaches.
Localizing in the Mobile-Only China Market, with David Chen, CEO & Co-founder of Strikingly
When entering new markets, it is crucial to be able to localize the business. There are few startups that have achieved this and one of them is Strikingly – a Series B startup that helps non-coders or designers build beautiful websites that work on both mobile and desktop. In today’s episode, we are happy to have David Chen, CEO and Co-founder of Strikingly to join our podcast China Startup Pulse.
David quitted Goldman Sachs and founded Strikingly in the US, which later became the first company to join Y Combinator. After noticing the opportunities in China, David and his team moved the company to China where he has successfully localized the business and continued to serve the global users. He shared how they have established a strong local presence in China, in terms of product features, marketing channels, and even a Chinese company name. Read full show notes.
B2B Sales Strategies and Tactics with Jonathan Wu, VP of Sales and Co-founder of GrowingIO
Selling your product to businesses is tough. Today, we talk to Jonathan Wu, Co-founder and VP of Sales of a fast-growing B2B SaaS Company GrowingIO, to share with you the most advanced B2B sales strategies based on his experience. GrowingIO is a leading data analytics platform provider in China that helps drive business growth through data insights. Their current clients include Bytedance, China Mobile, Tujia, Didi and more.
He shared very useful strategies and tactics on how to close B2B deals and how to understand clients’ pain points of adoption. As he pointed out, it’s very important to understand your clients, your product and user journey, and also to remember to talk to the decision makers. Later, he used GrowingIO as an example to explain how to classify products for different types of clients, and how GrowingIO has scaled the sales team in the past 5 years. Read full show notes.
How to Prevent PR Crisis in China, with Alex Duncan, co-founder of KAWO
Social media is one of the most influential means of communication in the world. It helps brands to engage with customers quickly and effectively. However, it also brings potential risks.
Social media management platform KAWO recently published a report analyzing social media crises in China during the last 10 years. It shows that there were 42 brands crises in 2019 in China, while only 1 incident happened each year from 2009 to 2013. Geographic sovereignty and politics are apparently the dominant causes for these crises. We invited Alex Duncan, co-founder of KAWO, in today’s podcast to share his insights about the report, how to manage social media in China, and most importantly how to prevent PR crisis. Find KAWO’s report here: kawo.com/bcr Read full show notes.
Applying Design Thinking to Launch an IoT Product with Alvin Chiang, Founder of Gululu
Design thinking. Lean startup methodology. Validation. Market Research. These concepts are familiar to every founder, and they are vital to any company’s success, but so few startups are able to do them well. Today’s guest, Alvin Chiang, is an exception. A veteran of internet giants NetEase, Alibaba, and Renren, Alvin founded Gululu in 2014. Gululu enhances children’s wellness through smart IoT technologies, and their first creation is a smart water bottle designed to help children cultivate healthy habits. In this episode, we discuss the extensive market research that went into the birth of Gululu and the ongoing development of the product. During the course of the conversation, we were thrilled to discover that Gululu is a perfect use case for design thinking. Read full show notes.
What’s Next for Ctrip (Trip.com Group) with Margaret Feng, Head of Innovation
The growth of online travel users and transactions in China has slowed in the past two years. Has the online travel market hit a bottleneck? Where will the next opportunities arise? As one of the industry titans, Trip.com Group (formerly known as Ctrip) is at the forefront of experimenting with new initiatives to maintain its competitive position in the market.
As Head of Innovation at Trip.com Group, Margaret Feng, shares how they are exploring new offline products and planning how to acquire more customers in lower-tier cities. More importantly, she explains how Trip.com Group is embracing the concept of open innovation by investing in and collaborating with startups. Stay tuned to learn how Trip.com Group runs pilot programs with startups and tests new concepts and technologies in the market. Read full show notes.
How to Understand Venture Capital in China with Victor Chao, Partner at SAIF
What factors are RMB investors considering that USD investors are not? What can the difference between Chinese VC firms and American VC firms tell us about the innovation and entrepreneurship lanscape in these countries? As venture capital funding slows down in China, how is this affecting entrepreneurs?
We are lucky to have the perfect person to answer these questions: Victor Chao, Partner of the RMB fund at SAIF, a leading private equity firm in China. Victor has lived and worked all over the world, and so he has a great perspective on how understanding VCs can help us understand the state of innovation in a country. Read full show notes.
How to Succeed in China B2B with Olivier d’Arros, Investor and Serial Entrepreneur
Navigating the world of B2B in China is tough business, especially when you are dealing with giant state-owned enterprises. It can be even more difficult when you are foreigner. As a result, most foreign entrepreneurs focus on the B2C space, yet a few have found the key to creating successful B2B companies.
One of these businesspeople is today’s guest, Olivier d’Arros. Olivier started his career in venture capital, and then co-founded 4 technology companies, all in B2B applications. He is now Managing Partner at MAVIE Technologies, an investment banking boutique with a focus on cross-border transactions in healthtech and industry 4.0.Read full show notes.
How China’s Beating the West in Innovation with Richard Turrin, FinTech expert, author of “Innovation Lab Excellence” and former head of IBM’s Cognitive Studio
To many people in the West, China is thought of as a copyer rather than an innovator. However, according to today’s guest Richard Turrin, there are many areas in which China is out-innovating even the most advanced Western countries. Richard says “Innovation is really about people and how they relate to new technologies,” and in China both companies and people develop and adopt new technologies at an astonishing rate—they are “some of the best users of technology on the planet.”
This innovation isn’t only happening on the tech side, but also in the corporate space. Richard is the former head of IBM’s Cognitive Studio and author of the book ‘Innovation Lab Excellence’, with over 20 years experience in innovation in both China and the West. During this conversation, he also shares insights on why innovation labs become ineffective. Big corporates all around the world are spending massive amounts of resources to connect with startups. Yet, there are still doubts about the tangible impact of many innovation labs. Read full show notes.
Investigating Live Streaming with Hao Wu, Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker
Every technology has a human impact. Live streaming is certainly no exception. In China, live streaming platforms have connected millions of viewers with a small number of idols who receive massive amounts of donations—but at what personal cost? Hao Wu, knows more about the societal impact of live streaming than anyone else on the planet. In his award-winning documentary, People’s Republic of Desire, he explores why live streaming has been so successful in China and examines the effect that these platforms have on both viewers and creators. In this episode, Hao Wu and Chinaccelerator Managing Director Oscar Ramos cover all aspects of live streaming: from the business models and the future prospects of the industry, to the social consequences of this technology. Read full show notes.