Let’s get it started

A firm fo­cus on their USP and keen in­sight into the di­verse genes of main­land cities is tak­ing young en­trepreneurs up the in­dus­trial lad­der. Zhou Mo re­ports in Shen­zhen.

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

En­trepreneur­ship is al­ways about solv­ing prob­lems. It’s wise for en­trepreneurs to lev­er­age the nat­u­ral com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages and ecosys­tems of their home cities.”

en­trepreneur­ship is es­pe­cially vi­brant in Shen­zhen, where most res­i­dents are from else­where across the coun­try who set­tled in the eco­nomic hub to re­al­ize their dreams.

“I see many lights still on in my of­fice build­ing even late at night,” said Huang. “This has greatly en­cour­aged me, as I feel I am not fight­ing alone.”

The en­tre­pre­neur­ial ecosys­tem is some­what dif­fer­ent by com­par­i­son in Guangzhou, which has a big pro­por­tion of stu­dent en­trepreneurs, thanks to its large num­ber of univer­si­ties, col­leges and other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

The Guangzhou govern­ment said around 24,000 in­di­vid­u­als set up their own com­pa­nies in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal from Jan­uary to Novem­ber last year, and roughly 3,000 of them were univer­sity stu­dents.

And that league of young ad­ven­tur­ers in­cludes Liu Zhenyu. The 22-yearold sus­pended univer­sity school­ing to set up BEPOTATO with his part­ner in 2014, hop­ing to build a plat­form for their peers to re­al­ize their en­tre­pre­neur­ial dreams.

Liu has since opened five cafes in Guangzhou and one in Shang­hai through crowd­fund­ing, mostly from univer­sity stu­dents. The num­ber of BEPOTATO share­hold­ers has sur­passed 1,000.

“Most of our in­vestors are out­stand­ing lead­ers and en­tre­pre­neur­ial pi­o­neers at univer­si­ties. They can get to know each other, ex­change ideas and brain­storm in the café and be­come big pota­toes in fu­ture,” Liu said, ex­plain­ing the ori­gin of the name of his chain.

The large stu­dent base in the city has laid solid ground for the suc­cess of his busi­ness, Liu said. Last year, about 700,000 took part in Guangzhou’s an­nual en­trepreneur­ship con­test for univer­sity stu­dents. Of the 376 win­ning projects since the launch of the con­test, 235 are now reg­is­tered com­pa­nies, with the big­gest of them gen­er­at­ing an­nual rev­enue of 500 mil­lion yuan.

Wang Ruixu, one of the con­test win­ners and also founder of Jianzhi­mao, an on­line plat­form for univer­sity stu­dents to find part-time jobs, was even in­vited to hold meet­ings with Premier Li in Bei­jing last year.

Ex­ec­u­tives and schol­ars say dif­fer­ent cities have their dis­tinc­tive genes, thus of­fer­ing di­verse op­por­tu­ni­ties for star­tups. It is im­por­tant for en­trepreneurs to find out the right di­rec­tion and fo­cus on their own unique sell­ing propo­si­tion (USP), they point out.

“En­trepreneur­ship is al­ways about solv­ing prob­lems,” said Elaine Ann, hon­orary pro­ject di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship at the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong and founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Kaizor In­no­va­tion. “It’s wise for en­trepreneurs to lev­er­age the nat­u­ral com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages and ecosys­tems of their home cities.”

Ann cited as ex­am­ples Uber and Airbnb, two pop­u­lar on­line plat­forms for car-hail­ing and ho­tel-book­ing ser­vices.

“The rea­son why Uber and Airbnb came out is that they were solv­ing prob­lems unique to San Fran­cisco. Hail­ing a cab is not that easy in the Bay Area and also ho­tel fees are much higher in the U.S. com­pared to China. Their model might or might not work for other coun­tries like China.”

Cai Wen­sheng, pres­i­dent of Meitu, a pop­u­lar photo-en­hanc­ing tool on the main­land, shares the same view.

“En­trepreneurs need have a clear idea of their ca­pa­bil­ity, the re­sources and cap­i­tal they own, what fields they could ex­plore, and which cities their ad­ven­tures are suit­able for. Un­der­stand­ing those things can make their en­trepreneur­ship bid more ef­fec­tive,” Cai said in a speech about his en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­pe­ri­ence in Xi­a­men in Septem­ber 2015.

On this as­pect, Chen Hui clearly has strong feel­ings. The for­mer Sinopec Corp em­ployee chose Maom­ing as the base to re­al­ize his en­tre­pre­neur­ial dreams af­ter re­turn­ing to the coun­try with a PhD in Canada.

The city in south­west­ern Guang­dong boasts a par­tic­u­lar edge in the petro­chem­i­cals in­dus­try. Cur­rently work­ing as a dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor at the Guang­dong Univer­sity of Petro­chem­i­cal Tech­nol­ogy, Chen takes ad­van­tage of the univer­sity’s sci­en­tific re­search re­sources to de­velop tech­nolo­gies that can turn solid waste into clean en­ergy and puts them into use at a lo­cal power com­pany.

“At Sinopec, of course, I can have a big plat­form. But it was hard for me to put my thoughts and ideas into prac­tice there, be­cause I was only a drop in the ocean,” Chen said.

“In Maom­ing, how­ever, I am able to let my en­tre­pre­neur­ial dream come true and con­trib­ute to the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion cause.”

While it is im­por­tant for en­trepreneurs to learn about the char­ac­ter­is­tics and re­sources of a city be­fore strik­ing out on their own, Ann em­pha­sizes that they also need to be for­ward-look­ing.

“En­trepreneurs should start (their busi­ness) with the end in mind,” she ad­vises. “For en­trepreneurs across the bor­der, the main­land mar­ket is their home turf and is big enough to scale up. They should first start out where they have best com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages.”

Con­tact the writer at sally@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Elaine Ann, Hon­orary pro­ject di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship at the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong Founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Kaizor In­no­va­tion.

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