A fresh start

Updated: 2016-04-01 08:28

By Hu Haiyan(China Daily Europe)

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A fresh start

China's young people, driven to change the world, are launching companies on a massive scale

The 1,000-strong audience buzzed with excitement as Li Gang took the stage at a grand exhibition hall in Beijing's 798 art district in early March.

Dressed in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, a la Steve Jobs, the 28-year-old was about to make one of his dreams come true by unveiling his startup company's smart bike, The Beast.


 A fresh start

Premier Li Keqiang spends time with entrepreneurs at 3W Cafe in Zhongguancun Science Park in Beijing last year. [Photo by Wu Zhiyi / China Daily]

"It's perseverance that has brought me this far," he tells me after making his presentation to the crowd of technophiles. "Compared with our parents' generation, those of us born in the 1980s and '90s want to make a difference in the world rather than just finding a job.

"And we're grateful for today's society, which offers many opportunities to start our own businesses."

Li, founder and CEO of Beast Sports Technology, represents a large and growing number of young Chinese people who, encouraged by government support and gaps in the market, are going it alone.

According to a report in January by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor, which is complied by a collection of universities, including Beijing's Tsinghua University, young people in China are the most active in the world in terms of entrepreneurship.

The monitor covered 73 economies and interviewed about 5,000 people aged 18 to 35 in each, surveying them on their desire to start a business and explore new markets. China was top with an index number of 15.53, beating many developed nations, including the United States (13.81), the United Kingdom (10.66), Germany (5.27) and Japan (3.83).

A fresh start

However, experts on business and entrepreneurship warn that many young people in China fall short in preparedness, funding and the ability to innovate that is required to succeed.

Li, who comes from a well-to-do family in the northeastern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, says he first had aspirations to start a business while an undergraduate at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Initially, he opted for the "safe option" and landed a high-paying job on Wall Street. He quickly got bored, though, and in 2012 he persuaded his friend, Gao Jiayang, to quit his job as a senior engineer at Alibaba to develop a mobile app that optimizes the Android operating system for mobile devices. Li says it gained about 1 million users in its first month.

In 2014, the duo accepted an offer to sell the app to Qihoo 360 Technology, an Internet security company, and used the money to launch Beast Sports, which makes apps and smart devices for cyclists.

The company today has 3 million registered customers across all platforms and is estimated to be worth about 300 million yuan ($45.9 million; 41.1 million euros).

"The domestic startup scene is thriving, helped by opportunities in the tech and service industries that have emerged as a part of China's structural shift," Li says. "We always had an idea we wanted to start our own business to prove our value, to do things that we love, more than just earn money.

"If you set up a company just to make money, it'll be more suffering than fun."

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