To be an entrepreneur in China, you need another skillset that is difficult to acquire in a Western cultural environment.
John O'Loghlen is a native of New Zealand and has worked all over the world. After leaving Goldman Sachs to specialize in the food & beverage industry and launch Gung Ho! in China, he is well placed to comment on the differences between starting a company in China compared to other markets.
Bring Something Unique for China - And More
I host a lot of people from the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and what I frequently see is they come in China thinking they have got something that China needs, and there is some God-given right to bring some app, or some food delivery technology, or some organic product, something which China should need.
The reality is there is a small amount of stuff that China needs. It’s very intricate weighing technologies from Switzerland and Germany, or deep sea oil drilling applications which are going to take them 500 years to develop on their own. There just are not that many areas where they won’t be able to copy what you have.
So, unless you have an ability to develop a relationship with them, and bring some value on top of the hardware, which they want to pay for anyway, whatever you are offering is not that unique.
Be Flexible and Diversify Your Risk (Like the Chinese Do Themselves)
In the interim, you have got Chinese entrepreneurs moving very fast, throwing all sorts of eggs at the wall with 10 different brands, seeing which one works, then putting all their chips behind that one for one year, and then doing something else in another province, maybe leaving that business altogether.
There are very condensed windows of time in China where you have opportunity to make huge profit and money. That doesn’t necessarily play itself out to building a long-term business. But you don’t need to compromise your values, your entire brand mantra or raise d’etre, you just need to have another path you can navigate, and have a three or four-prongued approach, pursue all of them, when one starts germinating leave the others, go with that one and see how long it lasts.
Those are some tidbits of advice and upon reflection I should have learned faster.