Shuhei Aoyama is a Japanese architect based in Beijing, China.
Yicai Presents Its Inagural List of the Brilliant 20
20 Entrepreneurs from 12 countries show China is a global entrepreneurial hub
Shanghai is becoming China’s biggest magnet city for international entrepreneurs
Yicai Tech & Innovation Conference hosts the first awards ceremony for the Yicai Brilliant 20
Yicai All-Media is for the first time releasing its Yicai Brilliant 20 list globally, in both Chinese and English. It showcases the 20 most successful international entrepreneurs in their respective fields in China who hail from 12 countries.
Yicai All-Media platform will issue the complete list with analyses, video interviews and feature articles on May 18. Various well-known digital media platforms are also authorized to broadcast and publish it.
Twenty brilliant international entrepreneurs will gather in the Shanghai Tower, Lujiazui, Shanghai on the evening of May 18, 2017, the opening day of the Yicai Tech & Innovation Conference, to receive awards from Yicai, and discuss international entrepreneurship trends in China.
Since February this year, the Yicai All-Media Team has started searching for and narrowing down contenders from a longlist for the Yicai Brilliant 20 project. Via self-recommendations from international entrepreneurs and nominations by venture capital institutions, incubators, successful investors and Yicai’s experienced editorial team. The judging panel has crunched the data of 60 brilliant international entrepreneurs in such industries as medical care, design, smart technology, gaming, social communication, environmental protection, e-commerce, tourism, catering, performance, advertising and media. The panel has also devised a comprehensive appraisal system from the nine aspects of leadership, founder, team, innovation, tech, biz model, growth, scale and valuation. In addition, Yicai looked at whether a company achieving success in China can develop an overseas market and serve global markets and users.
Yicai Media Group CEO Zhou Jiangong believes that China not only attracts worldwide venture capital, but is also a lure for entrepreneurs from countries around the world. More and more entrepreneurial innovations are originating in China and spreading to the world. This is an emerging trend.
“The Yicai Brilliant 20 list published by Yicai for the first time is unique and illuminating. Many entrepreneurs who were born and grew up overseas are making great strides in the fields of mobile internet, high tech and other industries. We are looking forward to having more international talents start businesses in China or join in venture capital enterprises, and help more China-based VCs reach the world’s advanced levels,” said James (Qun) Mi, the founder of Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The expert committee selecting the first Yicai Brilliant 20 includes James (Qun) Mi, Neil (Nanpeng) Shen , the founder of Sequoia Capital China, Harry (Huai) Wang , the founder of Linear Venture, and Peter Davison, the founding partner of 23Seed VC.
Neil (Nanpeng) Shen views the emergence of international entrepreneurs in China and the significance of such a trend to help Chinese entrepreneurs go abroad from the angle of entrepreneurial globalization, and believes that the cross-border development of technological entrepreneurship has become the new normal, and that the prospects for Chinese venture enterprises are better in many fields in many countries than those of their peers in the US.
"From AT&T and Dow Chemicals to Intel and Tesla, foreigners and outsiders have long been an essential source of what economist Josef Schumpeter called the ‘creative destruction’ of entrepreneurial progress,” said Peter Davison -- partner in the venture capital firm 23Seed VC, which invested in Paypal -- who greatly admires these successful entrepreneurs in China.
Yicai looked at 60 excellent foreign entrepreneur candidates with exacting scrutiny, conducting a survey via questionnaire and then face-to-face interviews with those surviving the first round, before finally selecting the final candidates for the first Yicai 20 Brilliant line-up.
The 60 shortlisted candidates come from almost every corner of the world, including the United States and Europe, with entrants from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium and the Czech Republic. Singapore, India, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea represent Asia. Young entrepreneurs from Australia and Africa also feature. Among these, ethnic Chinese make up a significant percentage.
The industry distribution of the 60 shortlisted candidates shows more than half are in internet technology industries -- e-commerce, social networking and gaming, closely followed by consumer-related fields such as catering and tourism, then media, new energy, and environmental protection.
Judging from the location of candidates’ companies, Shanghai has become the city of choice for foreign entrepreneurs, called home by more than 20 of the shortlisted start-up companies, followed by Beijing, which produced more than 10. Shenzhen and Hangzhou also find great favor in the eyes of foreign entrepreneurs.
Unsurprisingly, the list is male-dominated. Among the 60 shortlisted foreign entrepreneurs, only five are women, and among the Yicai 20 Brilliant entrepreneurs, only the founders of United Family Healthcare and Wagas are women,and the latter started the business with her husband.
These foreign entrepreneurs have overcome difficulties in China unimaginable by the uninitiated. After studying and working for Facebook in the United States for ten years, Harry (Huai) Wang , who is now back in China, recalls his experience of up to five years of hard re-adaptation. "It is difficult for me to believe that these foreigners who have grown up overseas can achieve such great results in China. After all, the differences between business rules and the human environment are so great,” he said.
Seven of the 20 entrepreneurs are from the US. They have worked in such fields as smart technology and the internet (games and social platforms). Five international entrepreneurs are from Europe -- France (2), Denmark (1), Finland (1), Germany (1), and UK (1). Their areas of concentration include e-commerce, tourism, catering and other lifestyle areas. Two of the four from Asia -- South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia -- work in design. Both members of the African contingent -- from South Africa and Mauritius -- work in tourism. Two Australian entrepreneurs are working in mobile medical care and catering.
China’s abundant capital undoubtedly attracts international entrepreneurs. The clear majority of the 20 entrepreneurs financed their operations in China.
Fritz Demopoulos, an American who manages a venture capital firm in Hong Kong, is a serial entrepreneur in China. He and his Chinese partner co-founded Qunar.com, which eventually was listed on NASDAQ in the US. Another American, Jared Psigoda, founded the online game company R2Games, which has been listed on the new third board, formally the National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ).
Many of the Brilliant 20 started businesses in the field of science, technology and the internet. These startups include three intelligent technology companies (PatSnap, Ayla Networks, and Malong Technologies), three game development production companies (Directive Games, R2Games, and Virtuos), and two social application companies (Pengpeng, tataUFO). Three tourism-related companies (nakedhub, Klook, and ZANADU) are in the lifestyle and consumption field, while two are building and home design companies (Design Republic, B.L.U.E architectural design firm). One luxury discount e-commerce platform (Mei.com) made the running, as did one caterer (Wagas), and one music firm (Split Works). One physical medical institution (United Family) represents the healthcare field, together with one mobile medical platform (Xingren.com). In the field of finance and capital, one internet finance site (Dianrong.com) and one venture capital group (Queen's Road Capital) also towered above the other contenders.
Twenty international entrepreneurs have chosen to start their businesses in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Suzhou, and Hong Kong. Eight entrepreneurs plumped for Shanghai, which was the most popular location. Six opted for Beijing, three elected Shenzhen, two Hong Kong, and one Suzhou.
The international entrepreneurs’ ages range from 20 to 50 years. Those in their 30s and 40s comprise the majority. Entrepreneurs engaged in technology, internet and e-commerce businesses are predominantly over 40, because these areas depend more on the entrepreneurs’ previous experience and the advantages of their accumulated resources. Entrepreneurs focusing on games, social applications, and tourism are relatively young by contrast.
Some 15 of the entrepreneurs are co-founders. All are foreigners, except those who started Mei.com, Split Works and Wagas. Two of the foreign entrepreneurs partnered with their Chinese wives, and 10 of them have other Chinese partners as co-founders. Five independent entrepreneurs are engaged in games (2), medical (1), social platform (1), and venture capital (1). Chinese and foreign co-founders predominate in the fields of technology and the internet.
Harry Wang, as an investor, witnessed how the two founders of the companies in the ranking list creatively coped with the challenges China poses. “I know they have had a tough, but productive local experience,” Wang said. “I hope that this will be a good start in attracting more and better international talent to start new businesses in China in the future.”
One can readily imagine the ordeal in surmounting the difficulties the entrepreneurs underwent who grew up entirely in a foreign cultural environment. “These entrepreneurs have achieved a cultural transcendence both in ideology and practice, which proved a basic truth -- the successful entrepreneurial spirit is not limited by the specific cultural and political environment,” Peter Davidson said. “The success of the entrepreneurs reflects the unique human ability to adapt and overcome the most challenging environment.”
‘Based in China, oriented toward the world’ has becomes the most salient emblem and watchword of these international entrepreneurs and their companies. This is most apparent in internet technology and games.
Many of the founders who have international education and professional backgrounds work with international core management team members. Most company staff teams are ‘multinational squads.’ More than 200 team members from Klook Travel come from more than 15 countries and regions, and the 450 full-time physician team members with United Family hail from 25 countries, while the 1,200-plus employees of the game company Virtuas call 15 countries home.
Internationalization lies at the core of all these entrepreneurs’ impulses. A gaming social platform founded by Andy Tian, Uplive, has nearly 10 million overseas users. Jared Psigoda’s game company, R2Games, has infiltrated markets in more than 20 countries and regions, including the US, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, UK, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Virtuos’ customers include 18 of the world’s top 20 digital entertainment companies and famous independent studios. Since Brian Hyeon Woo Cheong’s tataUFO first appeared online, the number of its users has surpassed five million. It has attracted young people from more than 1,200 colleges and universities, both in China and abroad.
An increasing number of investors have begun to closely attend to these international start-up companies and entrepreneurs, especially those from China with global ambitions. “Innovative competition is also talent competition,” said James Mi . “In the context of tightening US immigration policy, China is attracting more international entrepreneurs with its huge market, active venture capital and entrepreneurial environment.”
Harry Wang expects that China will become a global business innovation center in the future. "Over the past 30 years, Chinese talent went overseas and then came back,” Wang said. He hopes that the next 30 years will witness a new era of international talent upping sticks and moving to China.
Yicai’s mix of digital, TV and print media platforms offers you the complete list of ‘China's best international entrepreneurs’ (Yicai Brilliant 20), with analyses, feature stories, and video interviews:
Yicai Weekly app
Yicai's WeChat public accounts, micro-blog accounts matrix
China Business News