Sunday, August 23, 2009

China lessons

After following venture investor Lip-Bu Tan of Walden International for more than a decade now, I found it interesting to hear him talk about how he might have done things differently. At a recent China 2010 panel discussion at the Churchill Club, Tan says the number one lesson he learned in 20+ years of Chinese dealmaking is the importance of going local. These days, Tan is spending one week every month in Beijing. He's also made sure to hire local Chinese who can get into the inner circle with other dealmakers and importantly, government officials. Interestingly, Tan found that bringing in talent from Hong Kong or Taiwan didn't work well in China. But, hiring a Caucasian manager who could speak Chinese DID work. Tan surmised that's because there's a fascination in China with westerners who can speak the language better perhaps than even he -- a native Singaporean -- can. This made some folks in the crowd wondering what role they might have in China. See CNReviews post by Silicon Valley mover and shaker Elliott Ng.
PS: Tan is looking noticeably relaxed despite the fact that he now holds two jobs at the same time. Not only does he still lead the team at Walden, but he's the head of Cadence Design Systems.