The question “What are the factors that should encourage you to pursue entrepreneurial activities in China?” originally appeared on Quora. Here’s an answer put forth by TaoTao, the co-founder of GetYourGuide.
- Cheap labor. One of the many reasons why Google keeps an office in China is because IT talent is still comparably cheap. But if you listen to stories from Chinese entrepreneurs, it’s incredibly difficult to find and attract those of the entrepreneurial type unless you give out a lot of equity or your name is Kai-Fu Lee. Having a Chinese partner is essential though.
- Large & growing markets, even if you go into niche verticals. Opportunities are especially strong in mobile, more so than internet in general, both given larger and faster mobile penetration and already crowded online markets.
- The entrepreneurial environment. You’ll often get to meet people who are creating firsts, be it the first whiskey bar in town, the first modern art village, or the first party on an aircraft carrier. Very often, it’s something that already exists in the West, but it’s nice to get to know some people that are shaping the cultural and business landscape of a city and country.
- If you fall in love with the place. As difficult as it is to describe this point, it’s probably the most important reason for anyone to stay in China. As an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about your product and customers, which is something you can’t do if you don’t like the place to begin with. I can only recount my personal Beijing experience, which was a combination of constantly feeling a little bit out of place yet completely absorbed in the thousands of things going on at the same time. If you live in Beijing, there’s no day or night off. The Economist wrote a great article about being expat in general, and most Beijing expats that I spoke to could identify with the sentiments described there:
To quote the most telling passage “An American child psychologist, Alison Gopnik, when reaching for an analogy to illuminate the world as experienced by a baby, compared it to Paris as experienced for the first time by an adult American: a pageant of novelty, colour, excitement. Reverse the analogy and you see that living in a foreign country can evoke many of the emotions of childhood: novelty, surprise, anxiety, relief, powerlessness, frustration, irresponsibility.
For entrepreneurs and adventurers, China is one of those rare places with a good mix of exotic estrangement, openness to foreigners, and economic opportunities.
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