“It’s a good time to be an entrepreneur in China,” Qiming Huang, vice president of product development at the Chinese internet forum Tianya, said recently at a panel for Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Week. She said this is especially true for young entrepreneurs just starting out in the digital field.
Entrepreneurs around the world are increasingly turning to digital media to find their fortune – and the age limit for success continues to drop. Of course, wunderkinds like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who created the multi-billion dollar social media empire out of his university dorm room at age 20, or Nick D’Aloisio, the 17-year-old British high school student who just sold his news-reading app Summly to Yahoo for tens of millions of dollars, are rare. Nevertheless, the rich gains to be had in this new, wide open industry make the efforts worthwhile for many intrepid young techies, and China is no different.
By 2015 there will be 500 million people under age 30 in China, about equal to the entire population of the European Union. Further, many of these young people are seeking out opportunities in industries that develop the next wave of online games, web applications and other digital innovations. While China doesn’t yet have its own Zuckerberg or D’Aloisio, it has plenty of fascinating young people that could fit the role. Here are a few notable candidates to keep your eye on.
Robin Chan, 35, founder of XPD Media:
With over ten years of tech start-up experience, Chan is one of the most well-known digital entrepreneurs in China and a symbol of success for those just starting out in the industry. Chan founded XPD, an international social gaming publisher, before he turned 30 and grew it to become one of the most popular gaming resources in China. Then in 2010 Chan sold XPD to Zynga, the largest social gaming company in the world, to mark its entry into Asia. Chan was brought in as General Manager of Asia Business Development for Zynga but he still finds time to act as an angel investor and advisor for other local start-ups.
( Zhang Yichi with Greedy Intelligence’s famous 1Checker courtesy of Forbes.)
Zhang Yichi, 29, Founder & CEO of Greedy Intelligence:
After getting advanced degrees in computer science from two prestigious UK universities, Zhang Yichi planned so settle into life as a researcher. Yet at the urging of his professors, Zhang entered several entrepreneurship competitions at Cambridge University with a spelling- and grammar- check software he’d created that rivalled Microsoft’s. After winning, the course of his life was changed. Zhang’s now the CEO of Greedy Intelligence, which distributes software to English-language training schools in China. Due to his sudden success, last year Zhang was included in Forbes’ “China 30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurial disruptors in China.
(A screenshot of Yunio at work.)
Rick Olson, 29, Founder & CEO of Yunio:
Not all China-based digital businesses are created by young Chinese entrepreneurs, however. Rick Olson, an American who came to China to study business at Fudan University, decided to start his career in China rather than go home. Olson worked with cofounder and fellow American Chris Matthews to create Yunio, a cloud storage service similar to Dropbox. While the service has become very popular in mainland China, it faces major competition from other tech player’s such as Baidu, which recently released its own Dropbox clone. As Matthews said in a recent interview, “in China you don’t compete on innovation, but on execution… It’s about being damn good at what you do and it usually it comes down to who can do it faster and more efficiently.”
(Shi Kaiwen and his popular music-streaming site Jing.fm)
Shi Kaiwen, 23, Founder of Jing.fm
Shi Kaiwen exemplifies the new era of entrepreneurship in China and the ability to pursue any passion within the digital realm. Shi was an avid musician from a young age and even attended the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing – but he was also fascinated by the growth and dynamism of the Internet. As a teen he started creating music websites like Koocu.com in 2008 and Saylikes.com in 2010, but he hit it big in 2011 with the launch of the music-streaming site Jing.fm. Shi has now raised over $1 million from investors and has over one million registered users as well.
Young Chinese entrepreneurs are creating the next generation of businesses in China and many of their innovative and creative ideas are being poured into transforming digital media. The entrepreneurial spirit among the younger generation in China is very strong and this is sure to help China’s digital industry expand further. The next step will be for more of these digital businesses to expand internationally and reach people around the globe.
By Benjamin Göbel & Victoria Cook