iWeekend is an organization that aims to spur entrepreneurs into action by bringing together tech entrepreneurs and professionals to select an idea, develop a product and launch a tech-based start-up in just one weekend.
In the run up to its 2011 Beijing 15-17 April iWeekend, the team hosted a Q&A session with two seasoned entrepreneurs on Thursday at Fish Eye Café in Sanlitun Village. The first entrepreneur to share was Stephen Wang (SW), an ABC and Berkeley graduate who co-founded RottenTomatoes.com, a movie rating site, later sold to IGN and is currently the Co-Founder and CTO of alivenotdead.com, an online community for artists (filmmakers, musicians, performing artists, and more) and their fans allowing communication, interaction, and collaboration. The other was Steven Chui (SC), founder of zhaopin.com, the massive jobs site in China.
Here were the questions and answers of the night.
Q: What are the most important things in starting a start-up?
A: SW – Firstly have a strong balanced team, then a good idea then go for the right market. Do something you are passionate about and do it when you don’t have too many responsibilities like a family. It’s also better to bootstrap and start, rather than wait for investment.
Q: What are the biggest challenges for expats trying to work with local Chinese?
A: SW – Recruiting, reliable talented people
Q: Is there a line to be weary of with the Chinese government?
A: SW – The more restrictions and rules there are, the more opportunities there are in-between the rules and reality. For example Weibo would not exist if Twitter was not blocked. Opportunities are created by artificial barriers.
Q: If I have too many ideas, how do I focus?
A: SW – Do what you like most, what you can do the quickest and what is the best opportunity
Q: How does the cost of living in Beijing affect your business/life?
A: SC – Beijing is getting very expensive and good people are hard to find. If you can put resources in lower cost places like Vietnam, do it. SW – If you are a founder, you don’t want to pay yourself too much. Whenever I started a new company we made a, test for new employees to take either 100% equity or 100% salary. People who choose 100% salary don’t often last more than a year. You can’t really do it in China because there are a number of big IPO’s which take time. Also there isn’t an official 2nd market to buy and sell equity.
Q: If you have a good start-up and then a big company steals your idea, what do you do?
A: SW – Well rottentomatoes was doing well then Yahoo movies took the idea. To defend against Yahoo we doubled down on the product and aggregated all reviews into one overall rating (tomato rating), a key differentiator. Also for alivenotdead, we are being killed by Facebook outside China and Sina inside China so we are pivoting and trying to raise money on a new entertainment product. Since Tencent is trying to create their own network to compete with Sina, they came to us at alivenotdead to ask how to get their celebrities onto the network. If your product is that good, there is another gorilla that can enter the cage you can align with.
When I chatted to Stephen after the official Q&A, he recommended people to check out the blog Andrewchenblog.com, a good resource for insights into online marketing and start-ups.
For more information, to apply for event, or to subscribe to their mailing list, visit iWeekend’s website.