If you are from EU, probably you know a meetup called OpenCoffee. I’ve been to OpenCoffee London & Leeds when I was in UK. It’s a very casual meetup, people just escape from office for ~2 hours, find a nice cafe, meet and chat. I like it very much, at that time I thought we should have one in China, but instead of calling it OpenCoffee, we should say OpenTea because I assumed Coffee is not popular, but Tea is. Till now, no one ever brought OpenCoffee to China, but I am also partially wrong, more and more Chinese start loving coffee, at least loving to meet with others at the cafe. And we even think Cafe is a Sign for Chinese Internet Prosperity.
I think it is a really good time to do a startup in China right now, not just because the money is there but also the ecosystem for startups is getting improved. As a sign of it, besides quite a few startup competitions organized by different local media, such as DEMO China, more and more western style events such as Barcamp, Startup Weekend, iWeekend, Mobile Monday etc are now in China. Of course, we definitely need more.
However, as a helper of all those events, I keep thinking of one thing, how can these western formats generate more impact on local communities? I mean I love the unconference, I like the idea of people getting together to fully focus on one project during one weekend, but when you see most audience are expats or English-speaking; the quality of the startups showing up needs improved because many good local startups or founders are shy (well, in general Chinese is shy…) and don’t like to expose their ideas at early stage; some of the mentors or judges come nowhere but in fact have limited knowledge about the trend; some organizers are full of passion but lacking of experience, that coffee looks good but is not as tasty as you expected.
And for the tea, the situation might go either way. It’s super nice when you have local gov or software park’s support which can bring you free venue and promise some other resource. But if they don’t really get the spirit of doing startups and don’t understand what startups really need, things may get worse and even out of your control.
It’s hard job to mix the local communities with English-speaking communities in China, as language barrier is really an issue. You can give a presentation in English, but communication and discussion afterwards which is more important turns out hard for both sides. DEMO China is good, but it is a bit old school format and not for early stage startups. We need bring out more local brilliant founders to get them to speak at the events and in the meanwhile, we need those high-profile people, either investors or experts to come down to the grassroot and share their honest thoughts with startups.
Coffee or Tea, or a mix of both, taste is different, what we are expecting is simply the same: a better startup environment from the ground up.
[image via lynnrockets]