Learn From Leaders With Gang Lu

Gang Lu

Founder and CEO, Technode

Gang Lu is the founder and CEO of TechNode, a leading tech publication that bridges China’s technology sector and the English-speaking world. He is the guest editor of the world’s top web 2.0 blog ReadWriteWeb com. TechNode was formerly known as Mobinode.com, his personal blog, which covered the Internet market news in Asia, especially in China, and was also voted Best China Tech Blog in 2007 and 2008.

Gang Lu has MSc, PhD in wireless communications. He is an Internet expert, China Internet strategist, known speaker, and co-founder of OpenWeb.Asia Workgroup, the first independent workgroup focusing on Asia’s Internet industry. He is also the organizer of OpenWebAsia Conference, which is the first truly pan-Asia web technology event, bringing together executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from throughout Asia

With a strong academic background in wireless communications, years of research & development experience in the mobile industry and international business management in web industry; Gang Lu is very passionate about the Open Web concept and plays an active role in building efficient channels among Asian local markets as well as between Asia web and global industry.

Five Questions With Gang

Q1: How did you get where you are today?

When I started TechNode in 2007, it was just my personal blog. It wasn’t because I had a media background and loved to be a journalist, I simply loved technology. 

After completing my Ph.D. in wireless communications in the UK, I spent three years as a developer at my first job. TechNode started out as an online diary, a collection of notes on cool technologies or startups that I encountered. 

Five years later, around 2012, I decided to turn my hobby into my career. It was the year 3G just took off, enabling entrepreneurs everywhere to work on mobile apps or services. As the ecosystem grew more matured, China was no longer the land of copycat startups overshadowed by Tencent, Baidu or Alibaba. We started seeing a lot more great companies and great founders. 

That’s when tech media also took off. A conversation with an angel investor got me thinking about working on TechNode as my startup. My vision was to create the TechCrunch of China. It’s been eight years since. We grew a one-man blog into a bilingual media company with two editorial teams, complemented by events, corporate innovation, and other startup ecosystem initiatives. We have about 70 people now, with headquarter in Shanghai and other offices in Beijing and Singapore, bridging the Chinese ecosystem with other global ecosystems. I have watched Chinaccelerator, MOX, and HAX grow from the beginning. It’s been quite a journey.

Q2: What advice would you have for someone looking to get into your space? Alternatively, what advice should they ignore?

Leverage your cross-over perspective.

If you look at my background, I have nothing to do with the media. The reason that people loved what I was doing and that startups respect what we’re doing, I think, is the cross-over, interdisciplinary perspective. 

My background in computer science really helped. I talk with startups and founders not as a traditional journalist but as a tech guy, focusing on our interests instead of trying to catch eyeballs like traditional media.

It’s good for the founders to know that we understand technology, so that we can find the synergy. Tech journalists have to be tech-oriented on top of being a journalist. 

No matter what your background, know that your outsider status can give you advantages. Whatever you’re in, plug in what you already have. That will make you stand out.

Q3: What have you learned about building a great company culture?

It’s been a learning curve: scaling from a one-person team to 10-person staff is a story, from 10 to 100 is another story. The most important thing is to convince your staff to follow your dream and what you want to achieve.

I made some mistakes earlier and saw my founder friends make the same mistake. We all know founders with great mindsets, good backgrounds, good leadership skills; but the company still fails. When you do a postmortem, you realize that as the team gets bigger, it’s all about the team mindset. It’s no longer the one founder’s mindset. 

It’s very important to explain your 1-2 year vision so that the team can understand and execute your ideas, so that everyone is on the right track. Many founders fail, not because the team is not good enough, but because their visions didn’t align.

Q4: What excites you about the future of technology?

Technology has always been my lifelong passion. I’d love to see more 5G applications. It’s full of potential: once 5G is more ready and commercially viable, opportunities will bloom in many other sectors including AR, VR, IoT, etc.

Another exciting thing is what’s happening in Southeast Asia. We’ve been tracking China for quite a while and are excited to see what will happen in Southeast Asia in the next five or 10 years. 

History is repeating itself: what has happened in China is playing out in this part of the world. China used to look to Silicon Valley to copy everything: five years ago, companies in China used to pitch themselves as the YouTube or Twitter of China. Now, Southeast Asian startups are introducing themselves as the Luckin of Indonesia, or the TikTok or other Chinese companies of Southeast Asia. 

China has moved fast in the tech space, and the next centers of innovation would be in Southeast Asia or APAC in broader terms. 

Q5: One habit that has the most impact on your life

I’d recommend trying out new things, as much as you can. I spent most of my time on the management side now, but still I’m learning video editing myself. 

I interviewed Paypal co-founder Max Levchin a long time ago, but something he said stuck with me. Max said that for founders to succeed, the most important thing is to be curious. 

So I’d say keep your lifelong curiosity. You may find something that amplifies what you’re doing right now, or discover something you really want to do next. 

Bonus: Habit for life

When I started TechNode as a blog, from 2008 till 2012, nobody believed or understood the idea behind a tech blog. My family supported me, but they didn’t get it. Because it was just a blog. Come to think of it, there are so many blogs that just fade out and die. Sometimes I feel that I’m lucky because I didn’t do anything significantly greater than others. But I followed my passion and essentially just kept doing what felt true to me. 

If you really feel the passion, you have to stick to it. If you’re recognized by the industry, if people respect you for what you are doing, then you have found your way.

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