Things I've learned in China so far

Just some quick impressions.

1. If you want to compete with your web service and keep copying from happening, do two things: 1. let users upload streaming, live, video. That drives the censors here nuts. 2. Make your system totally open so your users can leave. The Chinese don’t understand that concept. They love cloning walled garden approaches like Facebook. Even that won’t guarantee success here, they have resources for cloning services that you just wouldn’t believe.

2. If you could make face masks sexy you could make a mint here. The pollution is horrendous. Last time I was here, 11 years ago, it was bad, but now it’s worse and people are starting to wear masks to protect their lungs. I think a good marketing campaign would be all you’d need.

3. American brands are doing very well here. There are tons of Buicks here (GM started with Buick because that was a brand that was in the national consciousness here. There are tons of American brands here from Osh-Kosh to McDonalds to Budweiser (they think it’s better beer than their own beer).

4. I met with quite a few geeks here building companies. It was very rare to find an entrepreneur that had been in Shanghai for more than six years. The amount of new people moving in to build businesses is amazing.

5. The censorship here is an annoyance that everyone makes fun of. It’s sort of like having a boss that randomly turns off websites to try to keep you working on what he wants you to work on. But, when you dig deeper you see it really is a protectionist scheme that keeps businesses from outside China from effectively competing. There are several Facebook clones here that are more popular (and more profitable, even) than Facebook itself.

6. I’ll never complain again about California drivers or California smog laws.

7. Chicken feet are more tasty than one might expect.

More to come soon.

Comments

  1. Chicken feet are not bad but if you are in Shanghai, the best food should be the soup dumpling (Xiaolongbao). You must try it before you leave!

  2. Chicken feet are not bad but if you are in Shanghai, the best food should be the soup dumpling (Xiaolongbao). You must try it before you leave!

  3. Try a Chinese reflexology foot massage while you are there. It is quite the experience and can improve your sleep if jet lagged. Also, haggle like crazy! They see you and they will jack up the price, cut it down to at least half or walk away. Also, get someone else to wash your hair at the hair salon, it should cost less than $10 USD and comes with a scalp and shoulder massage…the advantages of cheap labor…

  4. Try a Chinese reflexology foot massage while you are there. It is quite the experience and can improve your sleep if jet lagged. Also, haggle like crazy! They see you and they will jack up the price, cut it down to at least half or walk away. Also, get someone else to wash your hair at the hair salon, it should cost less than $10 USD and comes with a scalp and shoulder massage…the advantages of cheap labor…

  5. Interesting observations so far, Robert. I would not recommend anybody to start a streaming live video service though. If you try to do it inside China you won’t get a license (=end of business before you can even start) and and if you host outside China the service will likely be blocked within a few weeks.

    The face masks are actually not for the pollution (a common misconception) but you wear them if you have a cold to avoid infecting others.

  6. Interesting observations so far, Robert. I would not recommend anybody to start a streaming live video service though. If you try to do it inside China you won’t get a license (=end of business before you can even start) and and if you host outside China the service will likely be blocked within a few weeks.

    The face masks are actually not for the pollution (a common misconception) but you wear them if you have a cold to avoid infecting others.

  7. Ha! I read “If you could make face masks sexy you could make a mint here. The POPULATION is horrendous” and thought, that’s rather uncalled for!

    I wonder how India compares to China in terms of potential future impact in the tech industry. I imagine the Great Firewall will prevent the adoption and realisation of the openness ideas we’re coming to accept / expect with new web apps.

  8. Ha! I read “If you could make face masks sexy you could make a mint here. The POPULATION is horrendous” and thought, that’s rather uncalled for!

    I wonder how India compares to China in terms of potential future impact in the tech industry. I imagine the Great Firewall will prevent the adoption and realisation of the openness ideas we’re coming to accept / expect with new web apps.

  9. Yeah. I would think chicken feet might be flavorful just like the wing tip. I haven’t tasted chicken feet though. Bring back a recipe. We can have them as snacks at a special Scobleizer conference!

  10. Yeah. I would think chicken feet might be flavorful just like the wing tip. I haven’t tasted chicken feet though. Bring back a recipe. We can have them as snacks at a special Scobleizer conference!

  11. Hey Rob…

    ONE OF MY MEMORIES OF WEB-DRIVEN CHINA:

    1-Going into tucked away internet cafes located in between apartments in Beijing.
    2-Having to give in my ID and get it fotocopied (drove me insane)
    3-Barely able to find a computer available because these room were FILLED with dozens of teenagers, men and women, all playing video games, smoking and drinking Sprite.
    4-NOTE: This was of course on a Wednesday at 11am)
    5-Adamant to judge, I must confess I did feel scared and felt sorry for all those young people in there. It was a weird vibe.

  12. Hey Rob…

    ONE OF MY MEMORIES OF WEB-DRIVEN CHINA:

    1-Going into tucked away internet cafes located in between apartments in Beijing.
    2-Having to give in my ID and get it fotocopied (drove me insane)
    3-Barely able to find a computer available because these room were FILLED with dozens of teenagers, men and women, all playing video games, smoking and drinking Sprite.
    4-NOTE: This was of course on a Wednesday at 11am)
    5-Adamant to judge, I must confess I did feel scared and felt sorry for all those young people in there. It was a weird vibe.

  13. With all of your “I am not an American”, Socialist, liberal leanings, it’s no wonder you have assimilated so well. Did you buy a one-way ticket or round trip?

  14. With all of your “I am not an American”, Socialist, liberal leanings, it’s no wonder you have assimilated so well. Did you buy a one-way ticket or round trip?

  15. 7. Yes, chicken feet are very tasty. My youngest son was born in Thailand. Earlier this year, we went back to the states for a vacation. We went to KFC. What did he ask to eat? Fried Chicken Feet! The staff behind the counter thought he meant chicken legs. Imagine the look on their faces when I explained what he really wanted.

    Another chicken feet story, right before the Iraq War, an Iraqi Kurdish friend was visiting us in southern Thailand. At the local internet cafe, he came running up to me and said, “Oh my god, what are those people eating? It looks like some kind of weird animal.” Nope, it was fried chicken feet.

  16. 7. Yes, chicken feet are very tasty. My youngest son was born in Thailand. Earlier this year, we went back to the states for a vacation. We went to KFC. What did he ask to eat? Fried Chicken Feet! The staff behind the counter thought he meant chicken legs. Imagine the look on their faces when I explained what he really wanted.

    Another chicken feet story, right before the Iraq War, an Iraqi Kurdish friend was visiting us in southern Thailand. At the local internet cafe, he came running up to me and said, “Oh my god, what are those people eating? It looks like some kind of weird animal.” Nope, it was fried chicken feet.

  17. just 1 point: I’ve lived in China over 20years, never seen ppl wear masks to protect their lungs, that’s totally exaggerated. You’ll lose your money if you sell masks here :)

  18. just 1 point: I’ve lived in China over 20years, never seen ppl wear masks to protect their lungs, that’s totally exaggerated. You’ll lose your money if you sell masks here :)

  19. Chicken feet, tasty? Chewy, maybe, satisfying, perhaps, but I’m not sure they taste like… anything…

    I live in rural China, so most of the rest of your points aren’t the same here (low pollution, the American brands are mostly Oreos and Pepsi, not cars or beer, ec.). But I’ve traveled around other parts of China to know what you mean! (Especially about the driving… scary.)

  20. Chicken feet, tasty? Chewy, maybe, satisfying, perhaps, but I’m not sure they taste like… anything…

    I live in rural China, so most of the rest of your points aren’t the same here (low pollution, the American brands are mostly Oreos and Pepsi, not cars or beer, ec.). But I’ve traveled around other parts of China to know what you mean! (Especially about the driving… scary.)

  21. I think People fail to realize that the protectionist censorship philosophy has been rampant in China since China was first open to the west in the early 19th Century as a form of protection from invasion.

    Thus the counter if to succeed would also have to philosophically have at its core the task of protecting China from perceived invasion..yes we all hate Xenophobia but in CHina its looke don as a Countries other military..

  22. I think People fail to realize that the protectionist censorship philosophy has been rampant in China since China was first open to the west in the early 19th Century as a form of protection from invasion.

    Thus the counter if to succeed would also have to philosophically have at its core the task of protecting China from perceived invasion..yes we all hate Xenophobia but in CHina its looke don as a Countries other military..

  23. > 7. Chicken feet are more tasty than one might expect.

    This made me laugh :-) On the other hand, one already has pretty low expectations to begin with when it comes to chicken feet!

    Have you tried the fried bugs yet?

  24. > 7. Chicken feet are more tasty than one might expect.

    This made me laugh :-) On the other hand, one already has pretty low expectations to begin with when it comes to chicken feet!

    Have you tried the fried bugs yet?

  25. Nice post. But chicken feet! Eyuk. I have a habit of browsing blogs and having my dinner. I’m glad I was done with dinner before reading this post :)

  26. Nice post. But chicken feet! Eyuk. I have a habit of browsing blogs and having my dinner. I’m glad I was done with dinner before reading this post :)

  27. Hi,

    well Budvar is a Czech pilsner and a fairly good beer and Budweiser is a brown liquid that s marketed in the US as a beer but can be easily avoided if you for a real beer from a microbrewery.

    Have fun

    Martin

  28. Hi,

    well Budvar is a Czech pilsner and a fairly good beer and Budweiser is a brown liquid that s marketed in the US as a beer but can be easily avoided if you for a real beer from a microbrewery.

    Have fun

    Martin

  29. Ahh, chicken feet. I stayed with family friends once when I was a kid and they served chicken feet. I refused to eat that night.

    Years later, as a joke, my parents cooked up some chicken feet and put them in front of me. It was a good joke, but I still didn’t eat them.

  30. Ahh, chicken feet. I stayed with family friends once when I was a kid and they served chicken feet. I refused to eat that night.

    Years later, as a joke, my parents cooked up some chicken feet and put them in front of me. It was a good joke, but I still didn’t eat them.

  31. Robert, did you get to see the cover bands in China? They’re amazing (in Singapore too). Everyone wants to be a music star. When I was there in earlier this year , I had serious talks with entrepreneurs about creating a “self publishing” business for these guys. It’s hard to borrow the exact models of US-based music collaboration and publishing startups, but with mild modifications it can definitely be a huge opportunity.

    Best,
    Ravit

  32. Robert, did you get to see the cover bands in China? They’re amazing (in Singapore too). Everyone wants to be a music star. When I was there in earlier this year , I had serious talks with entrepreneurs about creating a “self publishing” business for these guys. It’s hard to borrow the exact models of US-based music collaboration and publishing startups, but with mild modifications it can definitely be a huge opportunity.

    Best,
    Ravit