China’s Tech Dragons

China’s Tech Dragons

Which tech movers and shakers in China do European business leaders need to know?

In one generation, China has transformed from a mostly rural to a digital society and it’s fast becoming the world’s largest economy, taking along the claim of world’s largest innovation economy.

The tech generation has produced a list of people whose notable work gives us a different view of how China is shifting to a new, modern guise of its former self.

In China’s Disruptors, Edward Tse expressed this notion of “the emergence not just of a richer and more powerful China, but also a more confident, relaxed China.”

These are the tech dragons of China, who are leading the movement with unprecedented outcomes:

1)    Liu Qing, President at Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

She managed to drive Uber away from China

Also known as Jean Liu, she is a Harvard graduate whose list of awards echoes her outstanding accomplishments: in 2018 she is one of  Forbes China Top 100 Businesswomen and Time’s Most Influential People in Tech and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in China, amongst others in 2017.

Her company, Didi Chuxing is a ride-sharing app giant based in Beijing, China that “drove” Uber out of the country.

Valued at US$56 billion, Didi Chuxing itself is an outcome of a prosperous merger led by Liu between two former rival companies: Didi Dache and Kuadi Dache. She joined Didi Dache in 2014 and negotiated a complex deal between the two companies , which rebranded itself as Didi Chuxing post-merger.  

2)    Zhang Yiming, CEO and Founder of ByteDance

Could his content creation platforms become bigger than YouTube?

ByteDance’s flagship product is Toutiao: the biggest content and creation platform in China, powered by the use of AI, with a staggering 700 million users. ByteDance does more than measure its users’ social networking behavior: its portfolio includes TikTok, a video social networking app, which purchased Musical.ly and rebranded it under the mast of Tik Tok.

Not only it’s attractive to the app users, it’s also a big investors’ magnet. ByteDance is on its way to a more thanUS$75 billion valuation.

Zhang Yiming is Fortune’s 40 under 40, China Daily’s Top Ten Influential Business Leaders and Forbes Billionaire List in 2018.

3)    Liu Qiangdong, CEO and Founder of JD.com

Walmart, Google and Tencent are investing in the self-made billionaire.

Also known as Richard Liu of JD.com or Jingdong Mall, is a self-made billionaire who founded the second-largest e-commerce website in China after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The company has attracted US investors such as Walmart and Google, as well as China’s Tencent Holdings. Liu holds nearly 80 percent of the company’s voting rights.

JD.com plans to launch a flagship online store in the US by the end of 2018, on Google’s shopping platforms.

4)    Joe Tsai, Co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

There wouldn’t have been an Alibaba Group without Joe and Jack.

A Taiwanese-Canadian national, Tsai joined the behemoth Alibaba Group with Jack Ma as a co-founder in 1999. Formerly serving as CFO and COO, Tsai runs Alibaba’s Merger and Acquisitions (M&A) globally.

At Recode’s Code Conference 2018, he talks about how the majority of consumers in China is mostly mobile and this affects consumer behavior in purchasing: beyond mobile shopping (with self-appointed specific delivery times) but also using it as a form of payment.

In light of the US-China trade war, he urged guests to not listen to politicians that criticize China, but instead to look at the Chinese market as an opportunity. “There are a lot of potential partners, Alibaba included, that could be your partners to explore the China market together.”

Tsai earned his bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor from  Yale University and is on Forbes’ lists of Richest in Tech in 2017 and Billionaires in 2018.

5)    Frank Wang, Founder and CEO, DJI Technology Co.

The man who basically invented the drone business

“The Future of Possible” is DJI Technology’s company slogan. At our last check, DJI dominates 65% of the drone market; it produces the Ronin-S, a camera stabilizer that could turn any picture aficionados into their own Steadicam operator, along with its several innovations of high-performance drone technology that offers beyond filming capabilities.

Wang became Asia’s youngest billionaire entrepreneur and made Forbes’ Richest Tech Billionaires in 2017. An obstacle in the drone business is government regulations: not every drone is available for sale in Europe.

6)    Ren Zhengfei, CEO of Huawei Technologies

Huawei’s phones are said to be better, smarter and cheekier

Like its founder Ren Zhengfei, Huawei had a humble beginning. The global provider of information and technology had a startup capital of CNY 21,000 (approximately US$3K in today’s currency) when Ren founded the company in 1987 in Shenzhen, China.

Under his administration, the company reported a revenue of CNY 327.7 billion (approximately US$ 47.2 billion) for the first half of 2018.

Business Insider UK reported that “a big part of Huawei’s success also derives from an uncommon management and ownership structure. The company has three rotating CEOs, and 98.6% of its shares owned by employees.”

We may know Huawei as a mobile phone brand that’s competing neck-to-neck with iPhone. Although the US government is suspicious of Huawei mobile technology being used as a spying device due to Ren’s former background with the Chinese military, it maintained its strong foothold in mobile telecommunications and has outdone Apple to become the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer.  Ren Zhengfei is on Forbes billionaire list 2018.

5)    Edward Tse, Founder and CEO, Gao Feng Advisory.

He can tell you if your business strategy will crash and burn in China.

A leading global strategist with a niche in the Chinese market, Tse has lucratively managed both State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and foreign companies —such as Boston Consulting Group and Booz Allen Hamilton in his native China — while navigating challenges typically faced by large foreign firms. He advises foreign investors who are interested in expanding their businesses in China, “a unique market that needs consideration of the China context.”  

With the free trade agreement between Switzerland and China fueling expansion interests, what else do Swiss business leaders need to know about developing their businesses in Chinese territories?

For more of Tse’s invaluable insights, don’t miss him as a keynote speaker at WORLDWEBFORUM 2019.

To conclude, China offers an unique political landscape that’s very different from the western world.

However, it has proven itself to be more than just low-cost manufacturing haven in the international market.

There is a prevalent trend between both China and Switzerland to invest in each other’s territories; what if Switzerland could tap into tech innovation productiveness the way the Chinese have? Could Switzerland’s global standing then shift beyond banking and pharmaceutical to that of tech innovators of China-Tech-Dragons-proportions?