Re­cruit­ing young in China to find the next big idea

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT: LOCAL -

As he dis­cusses tech­nol­ogy, Stephen Bell, with his shaved head, glasses and dark Levi’s, chan­nels Ap­ple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs.

“Name some com­pa­nies that have changed the world.” Bell tells the crowd at a lo­cal univer­sity, writ­ing their replies in chalk on a black­board. Google, Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, Face­book. “And who cre­ated them? That’s right, stu­dents, just like you.”But one stu­dent meekly dis­agrees, not­ing that the com­pa­nies were started by en­trepreneurs in Amer­ica. “They have a dif­fer­ent cul­ture,” he says. “Not like here in China.” Bell, a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, wants to change that per­cep­tion.

Like a high-pow­ered tal­ent scout, Bell, the co-founder of Tril­ogy VC, tours China’s top univer­si­ties, seek­ing f ledgling en­trepreneurs. Each year, he of­fers mil­lions of dol­lars to young stu­dents, who of­ten have just a ker­nel of an idea. It’s not just early-stage in­vest­ments. It’s early-early stage.

“I’m not look­ing for rev­enue f low, and I’m not in­ter­ested in user num­bers,” he said. “I’m look­ing for do­ers.” On a chilly day in early Novem­ber, Bell was sur­rounded by f ive dozen stu­dents at Bei­jing’s Ts­inghua Univer­sity, the coun­try’s top sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy univer­sity, of­ten re­ferred to as China’s MIT. It was the last day of Chi­naS­tars, a marathon pro­gram­ming com­pe­ti­tion he hosts four times a year.

At the out­set, stu­dents were given 60 sec­onds to present an idea. Teams were formed, and they had 72 hours to cre­ate an ac­tual pro­gram or ap­pli­ca­tion. “Just fo­cus on do­ing one thing well,” Bell told them. Over the three days, he and other men­tors cir­cu­lated, sug­gest­ing new ap­proaches and of­fer­ing in­sights.

This was no idle ex­er­cise. Within days, the ini­tial projects were pre­sented, and sev­eral teams were awarded $5 000. Some even­tu­ally se­cured ad­di­tional f inanc­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.