During our meetings over the past days in Shanghai it became once again very clear to me that there is no country for entrepreneurship like China. Things just go so much faster than in most other parts of the world. Just one example here, judge for yourself if this would be possible outside China:
Grace and I were meeting with an entrepreneur for breakfast. Grace had known him online for about 3 years and met him once in real life, but so far I had not seen him in person. Grace talked highly about him, because he was smart and had a lot of potential.
He indeed turned out to be a very smart guy in his early 30s who spoke fluent English. Not surprising considering his tech degree from one of the top 5 universities in the US and his work experience there. He mentioned that Canada had given him a permanent residence but that he let it expire because of the opportunities in China. This actually reminded me of Grace not taking a Singapore permanent residence after getting her INSEAD degree (at that time Singapore offered this to all INSEAD MBA graduates).
After ordering food and drinks on the terrace in Xintiandi he started telling us about his start-up. I hear a lot of pitches in my job a venture capitalist, but this was one of the best I had ever heard. The guy was extremely passionate about his idea and I immediately got what he was planning to do and how it could disrupt a major industry. The idea was a relatively simple (tech) execution play and I realized this was a potential multi-billion dollar idea. I can’t talk about the idea here because he is in full stealth mode, but if it comes out and becomes as succesful (as I think it will be) I will likely blog about it.
He started the company about 6 weeks ago and now already has 15 people on his payroll. Not just average developers and operations people, but top people from China’s leading online companies. I was very impressed but I understood how he had managed to convince them to join him in his start-up.
Although it was not an ‘official’ pitch I became intrigued and decided on the spot that I wanted to invest (something that’s highly unusual for me by the way). However, he then told me that 2 weeks ago he had had lunch with a partner of one of the leading Silicon Valley venture capital funds (a fund that I can’t name here either), where he had informally mentioned his plan. Although he wasn’t ready to raise money yet, he also offered to invest immediately and within 5 days all documents had been signed and the deal was closed! I guess we were just 2 weeks too late. Maybe there is a chance to get in at a later stage, but likely at a very inflated valuation.
Two months ago this was just an idea, and now it’s already a fully operational and well-funded company that will grow to 20 employees before its launch later this month. Wow, just wow.
When hearing this kind of stories I sometimes wonder whether I made the right decision to leave China. Of course I know I can’t really live in China anymore with my family because of the pollution, the food scandals, the traffic jams and the censored, slow Internet. Also I am very happy with my new life and job in Vancouver and I would not consider leaving. But as an ambitious investor and entrepreneur I realize the quality of life in Canada comes at a price. You can’t have it all, so it’s great to be back every now in the place where things really happen.