Happy First Chinaversary, Wendy!

November 8, 2016, marks my one-year anniversary of residing in Beijing. I look back to reflect my journey in the P.R.C. I’m grateful for my connections who have helped me settling into a new city and understanding the local culture.

Fresh off the plane

  • With two suitcases, I parachuted in Beijing from Hong Kong to join a media startup’s founding team. Thanks to my college friend Andrew Buck, I rented his spare bedroom initially until I found my apartment a month later.

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A Backseat Passenger’s Conversation with a Female Didi Driver

According to my Didi Chuxing ride-hailing record, I have only encountered two female drivers out of 30 rides in the last few months in Beijing. I jumped on the back of a red Nissan Cima one Sunday afternoon and caught a glimpse of a female Didi driver’s life.

China has long faced a gender imbalance with the country traditionally favors sons, as Reuters reported: “about 118 boys are born for every 100 girls, against a global average of 103 to 107”. Therefore, I find it rare to meet a female Didi driver. I noticed she was not as confident as other male drivers regarding navigation, and I was curious about her background. Therefore, I struck up a conversation with her in Mandarin during my 13-kilometer ride.

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Finding the parallels between motherhood and entrepreneurship

Sophie Su co-founded Pingo Space, a mobile app that connects Chinese locals to expats through in-person experiences. As a Chinese Australian, she grew up in Sydney and came to Beijing in 2007. The 31-year-old is a mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old son. She is also a first-time entrepreneur, who turned down a store manager job with Apple in the name of making a meaningful impact on society.

She was pregnant when she went to Silicon Valley to meet her developers for the first time, and says she gave birth to two babies around the same time. She sees parallels between her son and entrepreneurship, and how she has grown with these two babies.

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Pingo Space tests new interest-based learning service for China

Almost 600,000 foreign nationals, excluding nationals from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, resided in China in 2010, according to China’s last national census. That is the potential market for one startup in Beijing who wants to increase cross-cultural interaction in China to bridge the gap between expatriates and local Chinese.

Yunkai Weng, founder and CEO of Pingo Space, had a 12-year career with New Oriental Education and Technology Group, a company providing English education services in China. He says he wanted to change the concept of learning a foreign language by ditching books and socializing outside of the classroom.

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How a filmmaker’s soft-sell marketing tactics further her brand

Filmmaker and entrepreneur Siok Siok Tan shared her tips on how startups should market themselves at Lean Startup Beijing’s March Meetup. Tan runs a social video platform in China called Kinetic One. As a visual storyteller, she has handled marketing for herself and her company in a subtle way, a practice that eventually helped her land speaking engagements everywhere including the World Economic Forum. Below are five of her marketing tips.

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How JingJobs differentiates from other job boards in China

Inncube, the newly-opened co-working space in Beijing’s expatriate-oriented Sanlitun neighborhood, saw job seekers and recruiters interacting at company booths while some candidates practiced their elevator pitches in four-minute speed-networking sessions with potential employers. At the same time, speakers took to a stage to speak about inspiration.

That was the scene at JingJobs and SCHSAsia’s job fair on a busy Saturday afternoon in mid-March. The event used the mantra, “Gen Y not! Job Fair. Be inspired”. It was JingJobs’ second go at organizing a job fair.

March is the beginning of a recruiting season in China because candidates are exploring opportunities after Chinese New Year once they receive their bonuses, said Samantha Kwok, founder of JingJobs.

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Live Interview: WeChat marketing is not just about WeChat

I conducted a one-hour live interview with an expert in front of 50 attendees at Beijing’s co-working space DayDayUp. Below is a write-up of the interview.

Tencent’s 2015 third quarter earnings report said that WeChat has 650 million monthly active users. Many companies in China use WeChat to promote their products and services, but they often hit a wall on how to grow their audience. Thomas Graziani, Co-Founder of a Beijing-based WeChat consulting and development agency WalktheChat, speaks to me to offer more advice on how to use this messaging and social media platform more effectively.

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Women Who Code expands in Beijing and Shanghai

While China recognizes International Women’s Day every March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements in society, the world’s second-largest economy’s rank on the Global Gender Gap Report has dropped for three consecutive years and now sits at 91st in 2015.

A San Francisco-headquartered nonprofit, however, celebrated International Women’s Day in Beijing by training their recently appointed regional directors, who are volunteers, from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to carry its vision and mission locally: to inspire women to excel in careers in technology.

The CEO and Board Chair of Women Who Code, Alaina Percival, spoke at the Beijing outpost’s fifth event at Peking University, one of the top two universities in China, on Wednesday. Women Who Code announced the launch of the Beijing and Shanghai arms in January after the Hong Kong one was established a year earlier.

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From LeTV to LeEco: A video website grows into a tech empire with global ambitions

Faraday Future, a California-based EV startup, unveiled its Batmobile-like concept car at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, causing a media storm. As it turns out, one of Faraday’s key investors is the Chinese company Leshi Internet Information & Technology, or LeTV for short.

Electric vehicle production is only one of LeTV’s many arms of vertical integration. In fact, the behemoth changed its name to LeEco in January to reflect its current business scale and its plans to enter the U.S. and Indian markets.

Founded in Beijing in 2004, LeEco’s online platform, which has one of the most comprehensive entertainment libraries in China, provides original internet dramas, TV dramas, movies, variety shows, concerts and sports games. Its Le4K channel has more than 100 films and TV shows in 4K with a growing library of UHD content.

Besides gaining the title “China’s Netflix” by providing video-streaming content, LeEco has branched out to smart TVs, set-top boxes, smartphone manufacturing, an e-commerce platform where it sells its electronics, VR headsets, and content production. It is also entering the internet finance and cloud computing sectors.

In August 2010 LeEco, then LeTV, launched its IPO as an internet streaming company and the corporation was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Its market capitalization was around USD 21 billion, Chinese tech media site Huxiu reported last May. Later on, the corporation restructured and expanded into different divisions. Not all of the company subsidiaries went public.

The company has experienced explosive growth in the past two years under its founder and CEO, 42-year-old Jia Yueting. After running a small technology company in his hometown Shanxi in central China for two years, Jia headed to Beijing to found his dream company LeTV in 2004. Jia crafted a strategy and built an ecosystem for his empire. The company began with video streaming. It moved into producing content and apps and also expanded to manufacturing smart devices.

In January, the company’s new president Liang Jun laid out LeEco’s upgraded ecosystem and overall strategy. The company will revolve around its one million registered users to provide three key products: smartphones, smart homes and smart cars, and application services based on cloud computing and big data. The e-commerce platform and its video, music and sports websites are tools to sell their products and serve their users with all kinds of content.

LeEco has big plans for the future. Le Holdings Vice President Zhang Zhiwei said Le Holdings (Global) plans to launch its IPO in 2022, Sina Tech reported. He added that the company’s unlisted core businesses and the company’s core assets would go public, including LeCloud, LeSports, LeCar and more.

To date, the company has accelerated investment and development in sectors related to its ecosystem.

Smart TV, one of the company’s key areas, was established in 2013. The company has released several models ranging from 40 inches all the way to 120 inches, with 3D and 4K capabilities in some models. As of October 2015, LeEco has sold nearly four million TV sets altogether, according to Chinese news outlet Sina.com.

In December 2014, the company’s sports division LeSports was spun off. It raised RMB 800 million (USD 122 million) in its first round of funding in May 2015. The major investors include Alibaba-backed Yunfeng Capital and Prometheus Capital. This division is in charge of sports content and sporting events. It faces competition from Tencent’s video channel and PPTV, a Chinese video streaming company.

Similarly, the company has separated its music division by starting a music business in Hong Kong in March 2015. Yin Liang, the CEO of LeTV Music, said they would begin a round of funding in the first quarter of 2016, Chinese tech media iFeng.com reported last December.

LeEco entered the smartphone business last April. It released phones in two series: Le 1 and Le Max. It caught attention from gadget fans recently, after it launched the world’s first phone to run Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipset at CES 2016. Beijing Business Today reported that the company had sold more than four million smartphones in less than a year in 2015. Feng Xing, LeMobile’s president, said the target for smartphone sales in 2016 is set for 15 million.

LeEco’s most recent move is building a team to enter the internet finance market by hiring banking execs. The company successfully wooed two business heavyweights from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Bank of China in August to join LeEco as senior VPs, Sina Finance reported. Around the same time, the corporation built a computing and big data center in Chongqing, southwest China, as its cloud computing division’s headquarters.

Despite the fact that LeEco has successfully made its billion-dollar businesses in many promising tech sectors, the company has caused controversy by aggressively denouncing its competitors.

After Apple had announced its fourth generation of Apple TVs in September 2015, the company’s CEO Jia wrote on Weibo, China’s largest social network, “After Steve Jobs, Apple has not made any disruptive innovations. [I’m] disappointed.”

When LeTV launched its smartphones Le 1, Le 1 Pro and Le Max last April, it released a video trailer insulting Apple’s iPhone for its regressive design and innovation. Jia also publicly criticized Xiaomi for its loose ecological structure and its lack of competitiveness. Industry analysts suggest that the company’s criticism of its competitors is also a marketing strategy for its products. This tactic is also adopted by many other Chinese tech companies, notably smartphone maker Smartisan and security giant Qihoo 360.

The company has faced its share of financial challenges. Jia had to sell his stocks twice in 2015 to finance his organization’s listed arms, according to finance website iFeng.com. The first time was in June when his LeTV shares were reduced to 3,524 million shares, and he cashed out with nearly RMB 2.5 billion. Then in October, he sold another 5.39% of his shares. He currently holds 36.79% of shares in LeEco. Jia reportedly loaned the money with no interest to the corporation to relieve its financial pressure.