You’ve probably heard the word fengkou thousands of times from Chinese entrepreneurs and investors. 

But it doesn’t mean what you think. 

YouTube video
If you can’t see the YouTube player above, try watching here instead.

Fengkou literally means an opening through which wind blows, like an air vent or a wind tunnel. But Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun, gave it a new meaning.

Lei coined the term by saying: “Even a pig can fly if it stands at the fengkou, as long as the wind is strong.”

Confused by Chinese tech slang? Check out our Lost in Translation archives!

Lei used pigs as a metaphor for investors. Just like pigs are able to fly at the wind tunnel, so as some investors can succeed if they can seize the good opportunities. Since then, the term quickly became the most frequently used word by investors to describe a new trend or an area that has huge profit potential. 

The term got a lot of criticism since people say Lei encourages opportunism. After Lei Jun’s fengkou theory was proposed, a large number of enthusiastic investors and entrepreneurs began to rush to various so-called opportunities. The entire business industry has gradually become a stage where fengkou projects are everywhere. Sharing economy, peer-to-peer platforms (P2P) and bitcoin industries all got their rise and fall. Some people even joked that even a small team can get billions of dollars if they know where the fengkou is.

“There’s a bad thing happening in our industry,” said Jiang Haotian, founder of GeniLink Capital. “Many people will invest in fengkou projects. Or we can say they intended to find some so-called opportunity. I think investors with independent thinking and judgment shouldn’t go after the trends.”

Lei Jun explained his “fengkou” theory in a panel held by SOHO China in 2015 saying his theory only applies to people who have 10,000 or more hours of hard work: “If you don’t have basic skills, chasing after fengkou is really opportunism. No one can succeed without 10,000 hours of hard training.”

Shi Jiayi is the Shanghai-based visual reporter helping provide multimedia elements about China’s fast-changing technology and culture. She holds a B.A. in Convergence Journalism from the University...