Building Business In China

I spent the last week in Beijing and Shanghai with 30 classmates meeting various entrepreneurs, CEOs and investors. We had an excellent week of meetings, lectures and of course some sampling of Chinese nightlife. Throughout the trip, I was thinking about how we could grow captain-cv.com in China. After meeting with 51job.com, the largest jobs portal in China, I got an understanding of the size of the prize in China. 51job has 50m unique users per year and has around 40m CVs on the listings site. Building an online business in China is not an easy task though. While broadband penetration increases rapidly and consumer preferences become increasingly sophisticated, it remains difficult for foreigners to succeed in an increasingly competitive and fragmented market based on strong relationships rather than the legal contract.

I found the trip to be very rewarding but my overall reaction to the week was one of frustration. On one hand, I can see a lot of opportunity in the areas of online education and cloud computing where I have relevant domain expertise and ideas that I feel could be a success. On the other hand, I realized how difficult it can be to do business in China if you do not have "guanxi" to access key decisionmakers and do not have a local trustworthy partner with a strong trackrecord.

In reflection though, I will draw on the words of Lu Dong from La Miu Lingerie who suggested that one should pursue any idea if the 3 conditions of passion, strength and profitability can be achieved. Having run captain-cv for the past 18 months, I have demonstrated strength and profitability through a combination of passion, persistence and a little bit of luck. The diagram above summarises some of the considerations that a market entry into China would need to explore. As with any good business plan, the idea is worth nothing until the execution takes place!

AFTERWORD: Amusing take on a visit to China