Over the past few years, I have been asked what it takes to be successful as a foreigner in China. Here are a few thoughts inspired by my tales as an entrepreneur in the Internet industry in the Middle Kingdom.
1. It takes love -- not only for your business but more importantly for the country, the culture and the people who welcome you. As a matter of facts, one of the main reasons why I wanted to start a business in China in the first place was to learn Chinese. And when you are no more a teenager, learning Chinese is a very demanding and humbling experience that requires a lot of love for Chinese culture and people.
2. It takes memory, as you need to remember that you are a guest in China and that whatever you do, must contribute to create a more harmoious society since it has rightfully been China's #1 priority over the past few years or so. If you don't keep in mind that your activity in China must contribute to build a more harmonious society, you should do something else or just go somewhere else.
3. It takes dedication -- to keep your customer satisfied in a very competitive environment. In our case, every year, we ask for a video testimonial from our participants, customers and partners in which they talk about their experience at the CHINICT conference - and we publish year after year some of the most relevant video testimonials. These video testimonials may include some key people in our industry, whose opinion prove invaluable as they usually spend a lot of their time in top-tier tech conferences throughout the world. Indeed, video testimonials about the CHINICT conference may include people such as Dave McClure, Kaifu Lee, Eduardo Saverin, Mark Suster, Victor Koo, Christine Lagarde, Tim Draper - as well as C-level executives from Microsoft, Google, Linkedin, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, BlackBerry, Sina, Yahoo, Steamboat Ventures, Intel Capital, Nasdaq, London Stock Exchange, the United Nations, Aigo, Nokia, AngelList, Softbank, Silicon Valley Bank... You may watch some of these video testimonials regarding what it's like to attend a CHINICT Conference.
4. It takes attention to new trends in the industry. I started CHINICT with the vision that China's tech innovation & entrepreneurship ecosystem was fast catching-up with Sillicon Valley's (I called this trend "Chinization"). Three years ago, realizing a new market trend was emerging in our industry, we added to the CHINICT Conference, a Hackathon - a competition for software developers - to identify and fund what I call "developneurs" (see my article on "developneurs"). The CHINICT Hackathon has been growing so fast that it is now creating a new industry standard and became a significant strength to the CHINICT conference. Indeed, the CHINICT Hackathon brings more value to our attendees and sponsors than other traditional tech conferences by presenting very early stage yet qualified tech projects which, as Bill Tai from Charles River Ventures pointed out, are at the forefront of global innovation.
5. It takes trust. And trust from officials, partners, customers, media, participants is gained from offering year after year a predictable experience of the utmost quality - which is all the more important in a very fast-growing country like China, where some people may tend to value short-term gains over long-term commitment to quality. (You may watch the on-stage interviews of some of the most prominent tech entrepreneurs, investors, officials and executives from China and the West - that we welcome at our CHINICT conferences).