Entrepreneurship gone crazy: China’s ambitious generation
This may not be the best of times, but it is the best time for realizing ambitions. In his day, Mao Zedong stressed political fanaticism. Today, the Xi Jinping regime is dedicated to helping people get wealthy.
Jennifer Zhang, general manager of Huadan Angel Investment in Hangzhou, stands out in a crowd. Not particularly tall, she carries a light blue handbag and dons a wide-brimmed hat, a black top, and a dark blue knee-length skirt adorned with peonies that catch the eye.
Well known throughout Hangzhou entrepreneurial circles as Sister Flair, she and her husband, Fang Yi, were the force behind Beijing-based push notification service provider Getui, providing Internet companies other than Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba third-party push marketing services — a market projected to be worth nearly US$1 billion.
Fang Yi and Sister Flair often return to their alma mater, Hangzhou University, to share their experiences. Late last year Jennifer Zhang became an angel investor, starting with her own funds and then subsequently raising 16 million RMB (around NT$79 million) that was fully invested within just four months. She is presently working on raising 50 million RMB for a new fund.
“The startup craze really began just last year,” she says, firing out her words like a fusillade. Having seen her husband found one venture after another since completing graduate school, Zhang knew very well how difficult it was to raise capital in China up until 2013. However, Alibaba’s IPO made some of Hangzhou’s engineers very wealthy, and with the advocacy of Premier Li Keqiang, the investment environment made an abrupt about-face. The generation of youths born since 1990 joined the entrepreneurship craze, with Hangzhou one of China’s top startup hotspots.
CEO Jobs vs Chairman Mao
(those born in 1990 or later) are no different from Americans. They have never found themselves hungry, they have no fear, they are confident in themselves, and they also think about changing the world,” observes Zhang.
Zhang is at Fudi Startups Park, where a giant mural of the late Steve Jobs wearing earbuds and listening to an iPod dominates a wall. Such a massive mural is rare in China, where idols are not lightly worshipped, apart from those that featured Mao Zedong during times of political fervor.
“Steve Jobs is the hero of both hackers and entrepreneurs,” relates Chen Feng, chairman of the Fudi Startup Park, China’s largest privately run entrepreneurial park outside of Hangzhou University and Alibaba’s startup incubator. The entrance of the park is adorned with these words: This is not the best of times, but is the best time for realizing ambitions.
Mao Zedong harnessed China’s youth to spawn political fanaticism. Today, Xi Jinping economics is directing the passion, ambitions, and energy of the nearly 8 million annual university graduates into Inter- net and Internet of Things startup dreams. It is also channeling the ambitions of over 100 million farmers and workers who are returning to their homes to open online shops.
From slogans to reality, Xi Jinping economics has generously rained cash in offering institutional incentives. The startup incubation center at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University exhorts students to seize business opportunities, even encouraging them to take time off from school to concentrate on starting businesses.
“Right now as long as you give ‘starting a business’ as your justification for taking a leave of absence from school, the school will approve it without hesitation, with no need for further discussion with one’s parents,” Zhang relates.
In this Tuesday, May 26 photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese leader Xi Jinping talks with local people in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province when Xi had a three-day inspection tour in the province.