The generation of start-ups
Business- ownership is fast-becoming a preferred choice of increasingly ambitious university graduates in Shanghai, even in the face of a lack of start-up funds and work experience.
In a poll conducted by the Shanghai Statistics Bureau, 29 percent of 2,071 final-year students said they would “like to” run their own business, yet only 8.4 percent said they actually planned to do so. Still, the number of young people starting their own business upon graduation has been on the rise in recent years.
“There are many students popping out creative ideas to make money from operating businesses, which seem to be less complicated and far away from our university life,” said Gong Yiqi, a 21-year-old final-year student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who is planning a mobile application with two classmates in an incubator called iStart in Shanghai.
It was a project aimed at university students to save money using the application, and receive profits by filling out certain online questionnaires or promoting online activities organized by the companies demand for exposure.
“We are willing to see if our concept will be accepted by the university students. If not, we probably will switch to our backup plans to find secured jobs as we have already learned from our first water testing,” said Gong, who is planning to launch the application named Savemiao in September.
Since 2013, every summer has been defined as the “most difficult season for job hunting in history” and the situation is no better this year.
The number of university graduates in China will reach an unprecedented 7.49 million this year. As a result, the Ministry of Education released an announcement last December, encouraging universities to set up flexible educational systems so that students can be allowed to suspend schooling and set up their own businesses.
Unlike Gong, who has a back-up plan to find a job, 23-year-old Chai Jie, a recent graduate of Zhejiang Si-tech University, has had the entrepreneur dream since his first year of university studies.
“I’ve prepared for over three years to launch my own company, in terms of knowing successful entrepreneurs through social events and training my leadership abilities in the Student Union,” said Chai, who now runs Hangzhou Jiepai Cultural Creative Co Ltd, an animated advertising company in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, with a team of about 20 people.
Chai started his own business in 2014 with 150,000 yuan ($24,165) and chose the cultural and creative industry combined with the idea of vivid animation, in order to attract more online companies, which have great demand on showcasing their products to netizens.
“Instead of persuading and monopolizing the clients with our own thoughts, we focus more on satisfying them with innovative highlights after learning what the market really requests,” said Chai.
However, many of the students polled — from 16 of the city’s higher education institutions — said a lack of funding channels was a major stumbling block to starting a company, while others cited their own lack of life skills as the primary hurdle.
“Unstable cash flow remains the top risk for us startups as most of the new graduates fail to last very long due to lack of money or sense of market. That’s also why I didn’t choose to develop an application, which requires continuous funds,” said Chai.
As his determined goal, Chai and his team aim to create a resource platform of animated commercial advertisements in the near future.
The trend has gained much support from the central government. Premier Li Keqiang has encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit among young people ever since he took office in 2012. After he presided over a recent executive meeting of the State Council, an official statement was released which said “China should embrace the trend of mass entrepreneurship and innovation in the Internet age”.
“It is a positive sign that more young people are inspired to put their creative thoughts into practice, but they also have to take professional suggestions from incubators and experienced businessmen to reduce the failure rate,” said Zhang Zhenning, senior consultant at the China-HR Talent Research Center.