Sunny skies, good food, great hotels, great internet entrepreneurs, Starbucks, Dairy Queen…pretty much the same as Silicon Valley.
I lived the good life in Beijing while attending the RenRen ($RENN) fintech CEO summit. I stayed at the Hotel Eclat which is one of the most modern and luxurious hotels I have ever stayed. Most people spoke great english. I had the great fortune of sunny and mostly clear skies. I visited the Great Wall of China (fantastic) and the Forbidden City (meh).
I was treated to a deep dive in the culture of Chinese internet startups. It was fascinating to hear and feel how much pressure local entrepreneurs feel to scale fast. I got to lead a panel with some Chinese fintech entrepreneurs and when I asked about regulation concerns was answered with ‘grey’ (grey areas) means go. My overall takeaway from the conference was that the Chinese government sees the internet as a great way for China to catch up to the world. It is working, despite the way our big social networks may feel about being blocked from their markets. From what I heard and can tell, Google and Facebook still make fortunes from Chinese brands using them to market themselves. Twitter will have a much tougher time because of their one to many broadcast format.
The stocks of Chinese A Shares ($ASHR) are rising as fast as the entrepreneurs talk. Take a look at the performance just this year:
— Howard Lindzon (@howardlindzon) May. 24 at 07:01 AM
I will reserve a deeper discussion about ‘bubble status’ for another post. In short, it is not.
The Chinese do have TWO Great Walls. One is from the 1400’s and one is their government throttled internet service. I purposely avoided getting a VPN line for my trip and lived off wifi and the limited internet access to American sites. I was a little insulted that Stocktwits was not banned :) , which just means I have to work harder.
WeChat (Tencent) is the dominant communication tool of the smartphone generation in China and I even heard Joe Chen, the founder and CEO of RenRen, talk about how they had tried hard and failed to put a dent in Tencent.
I finally got to meet two longtime friends of mine from the internet- @maoxian and @niubi (Bill Bishop). The two are expats living with their families in Beijing the last ten years. Both are moving home to the US this summer and they have so much knowledge to share having lived and breathed business and media during the great rise of the Chinese internet.
Of course the car traffic was insane. Crossing the street in Beijing is like playing a video game with death on the line. I did take many long walks and was greeted with a lot of smiles.
I am excited to get home and have some new perspective on the global landscape.
Next time the bullet train and Shanghai for sure.