Co-working spaces are a booming industry concept in China thanks to billions of dollars in funding. But how long before the lack of profits causes a shake-out? Walk into any of the most popular co-working spaces in China and you will instantly understand their appeal. They feel different to the average office, with their stylish designs, open office plans, laidback atmosphere, endless supplies of coffee and beer, and trendy young unicorn-hopefuls bouncing around.
Go to any restaurant in China around meal time and you’ll find blue, red and yellow-clad food delivery riders often outnumbering the diners. It is a trend that has benefited everyone who likes to eat at home, but is causing chaos on the roads and also creating major losses for the companies trying to make money delivering takeout foods. Ordering takeout has revolutionized China’s dining scene, but what is the real price of food deliveries and can it last?
Right up until the moment his company imploded, Ofo founder Dai Wei insisted he was building a corporate empire to rival Google.
But the young entrepreneur has now come to resemble a modern-day Ozymandias: all that remains of Ofo’s bike-sharing dream are the battered, unusable yellow cycles still littering China’s streets. The collapse of the Beijing-based startup, which just two years ago was valued at $3 billion, has captivated China over recent months.
For a company whose software speaks to more than half a billion people, iFlytek tends to keep its voice low. Founded by a group of researchers in 1999 and headquartered in the relatively sleepy eastern city of Hefei, the company was ranked as the 6th smartest firm in the world in 2017—just one place below Google—by MIT Technology Review. Over the past two decades, iFlytek developed software that can understand several Chinese dialects fluently—a feat Apple’s Siri still struggles with. It can transcribe it into text, and translate it into English instantly. In this interview, Jiang Tao, Senior Vice President of iFlytek, who joined in the firm at the very beginning, explains how the company reached this point and how it keeps hold of its world-class researchers.
China is now home to many of the world’s largest and most dynamic private companies. But apart from a few exceptions such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, little is known outside China about the intrepid entrepreneurs who built these business empires, often against astonishing odds. Professor Peter Cappelli at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and author of Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China’s Great Global Companies, is trying to change that.
The first wave of Chinese entrepreneurs are now in their 70s and 80s and it’s time to hand over the family business to their children. But in many cases it may not happen. With greater opportunities and a more international worldview, the younger generation has their own plans. Will this lead China to a business succession crisis?
China’s financial sector used to be famous for its poor service and imperviousness to innovation. Even today, when customers go to make a transaction at one of the country’s big state-run banks, they often take a bag of snacks with them—they know they’re in for a long wait. But things are changing fast in the Middle Kingdom. A new generation of digital finance firms is taking the country—and the global markets—by storm in everything from digital payments and micro-lending to insurance and wealth management. How will China’s lumbering state-run banks react? Will tightening regulation nip this revolution in the bud?
How do big multinational companies innovate? According to Kapil Kane, Director of Innovation at Intel China, there are three ways: partnership, acquisition and in-house development. The problem with the last of these is that in-house R&D laboratories may be good at invention but not at innovation—that is, finding new uses for, or making improvements to, existing products and processes. Kane aims to fix this at Intel China with his Ideas2Reality (I2R), a startup program nested inside Intel’s China operation that encourages employees to submit ideas, which are vetted, incubated and accelerated using the same principles used by leading Silicon Valley accelerators like Y Combinator.
Medical spending in China is increasing every year, and people have started to buy medicine online, with nearly 3 million people buying medicine through mobile apps, among which the largest one is Yiyaowang–the”No.1 pharmacy.” Set up by Yu Gang and his partner, the founder of China’s first large online supermarket, Yihaodian, Yiyaowang is also a key part of a healthcare ecosystem that combines an online hospital, a drugstore and patients. Yu, an experienced businessman and a scholar, tells how he built the ecosystem, how it simplifies the medical process and gives patients access to cheaper drugs.
NetEase is the Chinese internet pioneer you have probably never heard of. Founded in 1997, before its bigger and better-known Chinese internet peers Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (collectively known as BAT), it is largely unknown outside of China. NetEase is currently making big pushes into many new businesses: e-commerce, online learning, music streaming and a host of other businesses, but it still has a long way to go to climb back to the top of the China tech tree. Analysts note that NetEase lacks the breadth of its rivals’ businesses, and that will likely stymie its growth, unless it can continue to diversify successfully.