This past Monday I had the opportunity to participate in a “fireside chat” with Fraser Mendel, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Edwin Green, a partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Rebecca Fannin, author of Silicon Dragon and Startup Asia. It was a really great experience to converse with several people from the Seattle community interested in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship sweeping across all of Asia, particularly in China. I shared my insight and perspective as to the ways Startup Weekend is providing hundreds of Asian entrepreneurs an opportunity to take action on their ideas and launch a company.
According to Startup Asia written by Rebecca Fannin, China has almost half a billion people surfing the Internet and 840 million people with a cellphone. India has 673 million people with a cellphone and Vietnam has a quarter of its population on the Internet. With this ever more connected population, it should not be news as to why venture capital has been flowing into Asia like an open fire hydrant funding a variety of technology and digital communication companies. Venture capital investment has tripled from $5.4 billion in 2005 to $15.6 billion in 2010. This flow of capital has created the second and third largest markets of venture capital in the world – China and India respectively.
While continued advancement in the communication infrastructure and the injection of capital are certainly important components of helping more Asian entrepreneurs create companies, I believe that Asia has a long ways to go before becoming know across the globe as a center for innovation.
Move from Cloning to Creativity
Cloning happens all across Asia, but Chinese entrepreneurs in particular have become notorious. Several Chinese entrepreneurs has made themselves very, very rich by copying & pasting of successful business models and then tweaking the user experience design to fit their culture. Some examples of C2C (Copied to China) companies include RenRen (Facebook), Weibo (Twitter), Diandian (Tumblr), YouTube (Youku), Spotify (Xiami), Yelp (Fantong) and Linkedin (Ushi). I believe the success of these companies has reinforced a culture of cloning as opposed to a culture of creative collaboration. Everyone is afraid of sharing their idea with others for fear of being cloned. Yet, in order to create an environment of innovation, people must feel comfortable sharing their ideas – it is that simple.
Ultimately, I believe the lack of willingness to share and collaborate with others creates an innovation threat to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The company I work at, Startup Weekend, is actively disrupting the way people come together, cross-pollinate ideas and most importantly – learn from and not be afraid of failure. Through several weekend long events taking place from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Beijing to Shenzhen, Startup Weekend is creating a system where ideas can collide and spawn new, truly innovative and value creating businesses. As more and more Startup Weekend events are self-organized across China and other parts of Asia, I believe that the power of collaborative creativity between people of various backgrounds will triumph over the rampant and narrow mindedness of cloning.
For instance, this month Startup Weekend Shenzhen held its second event in the headquarters of Tencent. It was an incredibly success event with over 85 people actively trying to launch a new company. Several teams were noticed by top investors and there was even a surprise appearance by Kenny Xu formerly of Tencent. I implore all Asian entrepreneurs to participate in a Startup Weekend event and take action on your idea.
If you would like to get more involved with Startup Weekend activities in China or other parts of Asia – please email me @ keith [at] startupweekend [dot] org