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.

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