Monday, October 18, 2010
China Startups Battle The BAT
Forbes column, 10/18/2010
Chinese venture investing is growing ever less dependent on Silicon Valley.
Entrepreneur Joe Chen, who runs China's leading social-networking sites from his Beijing-based startup Oak Pacific Interactive, no longer looks to Silicon Valley for clues on strategy.
A Stanford MBA grad who formed and sold his first startup while still a student, Chen is rarely in the Valley anymore. That's because China's entrepreneurial roots have shifted away from there.
What concerns Chen most about keeping Oak Pacific Interactive healthy is not Silicon Valley stars Facebook, Google or eBay, but three giant Chinese brands he collectively calls the BAT--search engine Baidu, e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba and instant messaging service Tencent.
These Chinese upstarts are so hypercompetitive that Chen finds himself continually aiming to outsmart these super-sized brands. But even as Chen does battle with the BAT, he has his eye on driving Oak Pacific Interactive to an IPO. See photo (right) of Joe with DCM venture investor David Chao.
In China, the action is shifting from returnee entrepreneurs--so called "sea turtles" who were educated in the U.S., got experience there and then moved back to China to start companies--and tilting toward what Chen calls "pancake turtles." Known for their ferocious eating habits and for being a Chinese delicacy, the pancake turtle is an exceptionally aggressive Chinese entrepreneur who is increasingly one-upping the returnees.
Not everyone agrees. While venture investors along Sand Hill Road may dig China, they still think Silicon Valley has a decided edge over the Mainland for innovative, if not disruptive, technologies--and will have it for at least another decade.
See Forbes column continued here:
The Steve Jobs Of China
Alibaba's Jack Ma shows off his marketing flair at the annual AliFest summit.
Forbes column, 9/14/2010
Hangzhou, China -- If there is a Steve Jobs of China, it is Jack Ma, the founder and leader of Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce group. No other Chinese entrepreneur has the Jobs-like star quality, strategic vision and flair for promotion that Ma does.
Each September Ma can be found on stage at his annual AliFest in Hangzhou, the Chinese city known for its scenic West Lake and the home base for Alibaba. Labeled a "Netpreneur Summit," AliFest is, in effect, a love fest for Alibaba, its maverick founder and its accomplishments, which in ten years has gone from rising Chinese Internet startup to publicly listed player with global ambitions. In 2009, Alibaba earned $148 million on roughly $573 million in revenues (RMB 3.874 billion) and currently sports an $11 billion (RMB 77 billion) market capitalization. Yahoo invested $1 billion in Alibaba back in 2005 for a 40% stake.
This year's summit, held on Sept. 10, was on Ma's 46th birthday. To help him celebrate, Alibaba put on a show of impressive speakers: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (on his first stop of a week-long trade mission), the U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman, and even a rival, eBay President and CEO John Donahoe. Last year's AliFest featured basketball legend Kobe Bryant and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Each one of these speakers complimented Ma for building Alibaba into an online trading platform for small businesses and creating millions of jobs. All called Ma a good friend, and presented him with a gift onstage.
Schwarzenegger gifted Ma with dark sunglasses and a form-fitting leather jacket, which Ma promptly put on. On cue, some 300 Chinese journalists and dozens of international reporters from madly snapped photos and shot video.
Later, at an Alibaba press conference, Schwarzenegger posed for more photographs and fielded questions as attendees were told that Alibaba aims to create 100,000 jobs in the U.S. (mostly in California, if the "Governator" has his way) and develop a Schwarzenegger-branded scholarship to train youngsters to be entrepreneurs.
See Forbes column continued here: http://www.forbes.com/2010/09/13/ebay-yahoo-ecommerce-china-technology-alibaba.html