A world of opportunities awaits technology start-ups
For Liu Chunhe, going global is not an option for Chinese technology start-ups; it is inevitable.
He is the founder and CEO of Solo Technology, a company in Beijing that provides help with optimizing the Android operating system.
Liu, 31, believes that for smallscale tech companies like his there are huge opportunities in developing economies where the mobile Internet industry is still underdeveloped, such as in Brazil and Indonesia.
“The mobile Internet industry has connected people across the world. Big companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook have built very good platforms to provide global services that can help us tap overseas markets. If you can launch an app that can gain traction in the app stores, it can become known across the world.”
The Chinese market
is already fiercely competitive, so looking to virtually untapped overseas markets is a natural step, he said.
On March 26, Solo announced it had bought Leadhug, a global mobile advertising network based in Beijing.
The company has about 300 million customers across 100 countries and regions, Liu said.
“In the next phase we will market overseas and build a social network for our customers,” he said, adding that the target is to reach 1 billion customers and achieve a market value of $10 billion.
“More importantly, we want to make Solo a great company, the same as Google and Facebook, one that can make huge changes to people’s lives.”
Liu, who comes from the eastern province of Shandong, established Solo in 2009 shortly after graduating from Beijing University of Posts and Communications.
“Life is full of choices. I had many good offers, such as from Baidu and Tencent, that offered a handsome salary for a graduate, about 20,000 yuan ($3,100) a month. But I just wanted to set up my own business, and I had the confidence to make it happen.”
He described the life of a startup CEO as being “full of challenges, tears, charm and fulfillment”. At first, he said, his team did not feature many graduates from top universities, and many investors turned him down as they believed he was too young and lacked experience in business management.
“When I started, I told everyone that I wanted to create a great company. Originally, 99.99 percent of people didn’t believe in me, but the 0.01 percent who did have helped me stick to my dream.”
Today, Solo is estimated to be worth $500 million and has worked with the likes of Facebook and Yahoo.
Its headquarters, which occupies 500 square meters in central Beijing, employs about 150 people, with the average age about 24. The company also has an office in Silicon Valley in California.
Liu said one of the biggest challenges for start-ups is talent recruitment and retention.
“To keep good workers you need to treat them like family; care about their future and make them see that the company has great potential,” he said.
Last month, Liu flew his employees to the Maldives for the company’s annual conference, and he said he has handed out bonuses of 10,000 yuan in cash and 100,000 yuan in stock to model employees.
“Solo is a young company, so we have to learn from big companies, domestic and international,” he added.
One of his biggest influences has been Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and inventor who is head of Tesla Motors and previously founded Paypal.
“I’m much younger than him. Based on the fast-changing Chinese market, and the increasing ability to innovate, we should be hopeful about the future. These are great times that offer many opportunities for ordinary people like me to change the world.”
Liu Chunhe (right) is the founder and CEO of Solo Technology, a company in Beijing that provides ways to optimize the Android operating system.