Starting your own business requires only a little foresight

In an interview with CYZONE, Xiaoping Xu said that he has summarized a pattern that most of the projects, of which he valued the mode but ignored the people, failed; but more than half of the projects in which he invested due to his favor with the entrepreneur succeeded. “In fact, we invest in people especially for the early stage investment.” I do not know what universal value this pattern is of to investors, especially the early stage investment, but at least it shows that people are the starting point of founding a new business. As the technology blog of CYZONE, Kuailiyu focuses on the entrepreneurial circle, reporting domestic and international entrepreneurial projects, and launching a new column named “From Nobody To Somebody” to cover stories about entrepreneurs. We do not report on those entrepreneurs who are already famous and successful; instead, we focus on those who are still on the way or are about to start their own business.

These people are just like classmates or friends around us. They do not have a strong background or possess too many resources, and many of them do not even have the experience of studying overseas, but they have formed independent thinking and judgment about their industry based on their previous experience. Of course, this section is not to write miserable stories about the suffering of entrepreneurs, not to emphasize on the science of success, not to analyze the individual journey of entrepreneurs. We want to record the growth experience that these entrepreneurs have been through, or to record facts, and causes and consequences during the process of creation, questioning, making mistakes and rebuilding.

When I proposed to report Xiao Lin in the column “From Nobody To Somebody”, I mumbled a few other words to my colleagues that Xiao Lin seemed to travel to Dubai not long ago. After hearing this, several of my colleagues slapped their desks almost simultaneously, yelling at me, “Did you just say he is nobody?” This totally exposed our nature of being nobody. Well, being nobody is a kind of mindset, and who said entrepreneurs could not travel to Dubai?

Xiao Lin’s full name is Xinglu Lin, and Xiao Lin is his online name, which he registered on InfoHighWay to surf the internet. He was born in 1980, and after he dropped out of junior high school when he was in grade one, instead of buying himself a fake diploma or attending a vocational school, he taught himself programming on a 386 PC. His first employer in the internet industry was InfoHighWay, the first internet service provider in China, and at that time they set up some billboards in Zhongguancun saying “How far is Chinese people to Information Highway? 1.5km to the north.” This is a milestone in the internet industry of China. Xinglu Lin became a “teenager webmaster” of InfoHighWay at the age of 17, and his following work experience covers almost all the major companies in China’s early internet development; he now focuses on starting his own company in the field of mobile education.

Xinglu Lin, the founder of Beijing Xinen Technology Ltd.
Xinen Technology focuses on mobile education, and the team brand is MobEdu.

In 1997, he joined InfoHighWay when he was 17 years old.
In 1999, he joined China Motion.
In 2001, he joined Hi-Tech Wealth.
In 2003, he established Smartphone.
In 2004, he joined 265 as the CTO.
In 2007, he founded PdotCN, specializing in personal web portal.
In 2000, he was also involved in the founding of IT writing community – DoNews.com.

Xiao Lin shared with us his experience with InfoHighWay, 265, Ren Liu and Wensheng Cai. The story is as follows,

A chain reaction caused by a computer

Actually I was one of the users of InfoHighWay before I joined them. At the end of 1996, InfoHighWay Space was opened in eight cities in China, right opposite to Seg Electronic Market. At that time, I wanted to be a programmer just like Bojun Qiu, so I was learning computer by myself. I often stayed at these two places, asking all kinds of questions, and we knew each other very well. Later on, since I did not reach the legal age to register an account of InfoHighWay, they made me an exception, allowing me to be their youngest registered user.

I got to know Yizhi Song online, who was the general manager of InfoHighWay Shenzhen branch office. Lao Song was always online; I was a very active user, and I always asked various questions, some of which their technical staff could not answer, so this probably drew Yizhi Song’s attention. After we became acquainted, I often sent him the software I made for him to have a try. Moreover, I got the chance to know other internet users at that time, such as Hongchao Du, a software sensation in 1995, and Ren Liu, whom I got to know on his own website, the three of us then launched DoNews together.

Later on, Lao Song suggested that I join InfoHighWay, and I was only 17 years old.
At that time, I was doing water and electricity work with my father, and he did not agree on this. This was quite dramatic, I really need to thank my father first because he bought me a 386 computer after I quitted school at the age of 13, and that was the beginning when I started to learn computer myself, and this was the first major turning point in my life. However, it was my mother who supported me to join InfoHighWay this time, she said, “You should pursue a career in this field. Do not think too much about your father’s words, go and take the job! ” So the support from my family was very important, and that was why the two major turning points in my life could happen.

The highest technical department among divisions of InfoHighWay was the operation department, which specialized in the management of servers. I became interested in the management of network later, so I searched for materials to learn about servers, and tried to set up a small LAN consisting of three computers, and then connected it to the internet. Later on, the company really allowed me to join the operation department, and at that time, I also released China’s the first small-scaled advertising network which size was 88×31, similar to Web Union’s Star Dream Logo Union.

Lao Song paid close attention to me, but we also had some misunderstanding. The head office once sent a group email to all of us, and the title was “Is you work for the company?” The rest of the email told a story, and the main character answered the question by saying “It is for my resume.” This person works very hard, but after the company goes public, he leaves the company and finds another job, because he thinks that the ultimate benefit of this process is to polish his resume, and help him find better opportunities and gradually maximize his value. After reading this email, I was very excited and could not agree more on this, so I replied him, mentioning that as the old saying goes in my hometown: a young man should fight for fame, so when he gets old, he can rely on his fame. What I really meant was one should work very hard especially when they are young. In Lao Song’s reply, he rebuked me, saying that I should not think too much about fame, and should not be too impulsive. I thought I was treated unfairly and misunderstood, so I wanted to quit. Then I gave it another thought that I should continue to do my work well before my resignation, otherwise people would misjudge me. Now when I think about it, I feel I did the right thing, even though I was pretty struggling back then, and this is professionalism.

After I decided to leave the company, I worked very hard, and I was widely praised by our clients. Then I sent my resignation email to Lao Song, and he gave me a call after reading it, earnestly saying that it was actually for my own good, and he asked me to keep his email, and read it again ten years later. Listening to what he said, I cried, since I was only 18. Now, more than ten years have passed, I have always respected him. InfoHighWay started to decline after that. In March, 1999, more than 10 executives resigned from their positions. Lao Song joined China Motion, preparing to establish China Motion Internet Company, and he asked if I would like to work with him, I said yes.

In my previous work experience, for a long time, I valued other people’s recognition for my ability, and followed them. They did help me a lot and lead me into different new stages.

Later on, Xuetao Chen invited me to join Televoice and in 2001, when he joined Hi-Tech Wealth, he took me and recommended me to them. At that time, Hi-Tech Wealth was the leading manufacturer of PDA in China, and Xuetao Chen did everything he could to persuade them to accept my low education background and high salary. Soon after that, I received recognition from the President Zhengyu Zhang, because I could always figure out a way to resolve the issues that no one else could.

In fact, I was also learning stuff while doing work. For example, at Televoice, I was responsible for the project design and development of short message gateway. The company required that the platform should be independent and be developed on Java. Since I did not have any experience of Java development, a heavy burden once again fell on my shoulders. During the National Day holiday, I stayed at home every day, reading all kinds of relevant books, and consulting some Java experts on ICQ, and I finally solved the problem.

Starting from InfoHighWay, I worked with people who were all older than me, and the same thing happened at Hi-Tech Wealth as well. Although I was not a manager, the boss granted me the privilege of reporting directly to him rather than my supervisor. In 2003, the boss told me to lead a team to Wuhan to establish Smartphone, and I was appointed the manager of the technical department. Ever since that time, I became a manager to take charge of a department alone.

After I went to Wuhan, I had a very hard time adjusting myself to the new environment. Wuhan was too remote compared with Beijing, and I was in love, so I started to think about leaving Wuhan to start my own business in Beijing.

Wensheng Cai was on a business trip to Beijing at that time, and 265 website caught the attention from venture capital and was about to receive an investment. He decided to found a company in Beijing and invited me to work for him as the CTO, so I joined 265.

Xinhong Wu introduced me to Lao Cai in the first place. In 2001, Wensheng Cai drove all the way from Fujian to Lufeng to see me. He always says, “Meeting others in person brings you closer.” Later, Lao Cai got into trouble for registering the domain name of fm365, so I introduced him to Ren Liu. After that, Ren Liu told me many times that Lao Cai was a very smart person and had a very high EQ.

I got to know Ren Liu on Hongchao Du’s website – hotsoft.com.cn, which was the earliest software distribution center in China. At that time, I often browsed through this website, trying to find new stuff. One day, I saw the electronic version of “Heroes of Knowledge – 50 People in Zhongguancun” on this website, and it was written by Ren Liu. After reading this article, I found that it was just the same as the column of profiles on China Information World newspaper, which I had been reading every week before I came to Beijing. I found Ren Liu’s personal homepage and ICQ number on the website, and that was how I became acquainted with him.

Soon after I met Ren Liu, we often communicated with each other on ICQ, and I helped him with the development of his personal website – liuren.com. Ren Liu and Hongchao Du and I, we had a party together, and during the party, Ren Liu proposed to create a website on which friends within the same circle could post articles and make new friends. Hongchao Du, a programmer who used to be a planner, put forward many kinds of functions, and initially named the website “Spring and Autumn of IT”.

I promised to use my spare time on the development of “Spring and Autumn of IT” for Ren Liu. The website was officially launched on Apr. 19, 2000, and was renamed “IT Writing Community”. Ren Liu then began to invite friends to write columns on the website.

Ren Liu, Hongchao Du and I met again at Hongchao Du’s HotSoft. We discussed about how to let more people to use the website, and to promote freedom and equality, and we asked Rong Li to help register www.donews.com. Likewise, Hongchao Du raised many ideas for “IT Writing Community” including online interviews, article posting, feature articles, and thumb up/down rating system. The gathering this time was organized by the boss of Jhpop at the Dream Jiangnan Hotel nearby.

The sensibility and rationality of starting a business

The first time I tried to start a business was when I was 19 years old. It was just the time when I left InfoHighWay; several friends whom I had known on the internet in Shenzhen and I discussed about the idea that they would invest more than 100 thousand RMB, I would do the planning and technology, and how many shares each of us would have. We made plans and conducted analysis, predicting what would be like in the future, what the current investments and future returns would be. We were very passionate and optimistic about the prospect of the new company. However, since many problems remained unsolved, the new company failed even before it was actually established.

In 2004, I moved from Wuhan to Beijing, planning to start a business again, but this time, the preparation only lasted for a month. Since I was a developer myself, and I was not very good at market and business analysis, so I collaborated with a friend to work on those things together. Although the company had not been established at that time, we already had our own team and developed products. In the first month, we earned nearly 200 thousand RMB, but then my partner manipulated the accounting information, and appropriated the money to set up a company under his wife’s name.

After that, Lao Cai invited me to join his company, considering the fact that I really lacked the experience of running a business, and integrating resources, I could go to a new start-up company to have more training, so I went there with no hesitation at all. Lao Cai’s management style at that time was very outdated and rough, what made me a little uncomfortable at the beginning. Therefore, I raised many suggestions for introducing standardized management.

In 2008, I took the lead on building P.cn, a project that had been incubated by 265 since 2005. After Google bought 265, I led P.cn and the team to work on our own. Besides Lao Cai, there were I and three other partners. I owned more shares than the three partners did, but the four of us had an equal say in running the business. The project soon accumulated three million users; although this number was still relatively far from the safety line of 10 million users, the growth momentum looked quite promising. Some people wanted to invest in this project. At the beginning, IDG introduced Sequoia Capital to us. They said they would like to invest five million dollars, but Lao Cai thought that was not enough, so he asked for 10 million dollars, and the negotiation broke down. Eventually, Google invested six million dollars. In fact, P.cn was a project with a strong technical feature, both Lao Cai and I were very optimistic about personal websites, and we made a lot of technical innovation. However, Google did not care about the technical innovation about this project; instead, they paid much attention to its traffic. Therefore, this project was gradually marginalized in Google. In addition, there were some disagreements in cooperation among partners, so I gave up on this project in 2010.

So at that time, I was quite affected by the cooperation with friends to start a new business. Maybe it was because friendship was mixed in P.cn, or rationality and sensibility were mixed together, it would be good if we stayed as friends, but complaints would arise when cooperating with one another. This is really a tricky issue, and it needs to be addressed in a more appropriate manner. Just like when I started to promote P.cn, I was quite introverted, and did not know how to handle with these things. I wanted to ask Jun Hua for help, but I was too shy to meet him in person, so I talked to him on QQ to see if he could help promote it. As a result, he offered to recommend it on their HotApps page, which was shown on every page of www.onlinedown.net. Such a strong promotion of our product! All these experiences made me reflect on many things including how to help and cooperate with friends, and how to clarify the boundaries of rules between friends.

Now Xinen Technology, as the first project that I started on my own, focuses on mobile education products (note by the author: Xinen Technology focuses on the mobile education industry, and the team’s brand is MobEdu. MobEdu has launched more than 10 children’s education apps, with a total amount of one million downloads. They are now developing a tablet operating system that is suitable for children. You can go to www.kuailiyu.com for more details). In fact, I have always wanted to do an educational project. My first job was to develop educational software with other people, and I have read many books of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs during that time, so I think it is more meaningful to work on an educational project. Surely, besides these personal feelings, I also need to consider the possibility. After iPad was released, I think the development of mobile education is definitely a trend.

However, it still requires good timing even if you are doing things in accordance with the trend. For example, InfoHighWay and China Motion, they were both companies of foresight, and they did a lot of pioneering and tentative work, but the lesson is that the forerunner is most likely to become a martyr. So now, I am working on the mobile education products, and I often need to take a step back, to be more far-sighted and pragmatic. Two years ago, I saw some toys in the United States, which you could play on the iPad platform, and I think that is a pretty good idea, because pure software does not often sell well, but the combination of software and hardware suits the current consumer behavior better. I thus asked a friend in the United States to send some of these toys to me, and then studied the principles and how they were made, considering if it was possible to design other applications. However, we are not making such products now, because they are not very popular in the United States, which means it still needs a long way to go in China. Currently, we plan to cooperate with some offline channels to launch some products and gradually advance in this industry.

From: Kuailiyu (August 1, 2013)

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