By: Justin Taubman
After meeting with many successful entrepreneurs at some of China’s top start-up incubators and accelerators in Shanghai, it is clear that China is getting serious about entrepreneurship. Until recently, Chinese families have not been very supportive of their children leaving secure jobs to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. The most educated and wealthy families have always pushed their children towards traditional businesses, but that is starting to change. The Chinese government has realized the importance of innovation and the creation of new businesses and technology. While traditional careers in industries like finance, engineering, or medicine are still pursued by many, the government support of these initiatives has made entrepreneurial pursuits more accepted.
Our first peek into the young entrepreneurship scene in China with the AdVENTURE Challenge: China program was at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) Science Park. I was thoroughly impressed by the five MBA student companies that presented their businesses to our group. The government funded SJTU Science Park sponsored promising student led companies by providing them with mentorship, office space, very favorable seed and even venture financing.
Our next visit was to Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai based accelerator modeled after the US TechStars and 500 Startups. Chinacellerator’s Managing Director, William Bean, greeted us and walked us around their office that looked just like any startup you might see in downtown San Francisco. We walked past several young CEOs getting head massages to get a glass enclosed conference room where we learned more about the startup scene in China. He used a buzzword we were hearing quite often, C2C that meant, “Copy to China”. When we think about entrepreneurship in the US, we think about disruption, however Will Bean explained that there was just too much low hanging fruit by copying Western businesses and bringing them to China.
I learned from these visits and conversations that China is on every Western company’s radar, but it is very difficult to implement the same product or service here. For example, Uber has been in China for about a year now and they are paying their drivers double the fares in order to keep them on the road. This may work for a company like Uber with deep pockets, but it is not sustainable. There are very distinct cultural differences in China that requires extensive customer discovery prior to successful implementation.
Justin Taubman is a first year MBA candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. After receiving his undergraduate degree in International Relations from Trinity College in Connecticut, Justin worked at the US Department of Homeland Security for seven years. He was focused on innovative security and customer service solutions for aviation security. Justin resigned as Program Manager of Passenger Innovation to return to school, where he is focused on Entrepreneurial Finance. Justin serves as the President of the Entrepreneurship Club and will be helping out at an e-commerce start-up this summer, called FoodBAM in Boston, Massachusetts.