Category Archives: China Entrepreneur

How this young business woman turn around a near bankrupt business

Not many people can claim to have succeeded as a businessperson, turning over a near-bankrupt company to seeing it being acquired a few years later. Less still are those who can survive in the cut-throat Food & Beverage industry and thrive in the hyper-competitive Chinese market.

Li Kheng is one individual who can claim to have succeeded in what must be one of the hardest industry and market in the world. Li Kheng is an F&B entrepreneur who succeeded in China by turning over a near bankrupt Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise from 2 branches to overseeing its fast growth across the Shanghai province to 35 branches and then later, making a successful sale of the franchise.

Li Kheng was a recent presenter at [email protected] 2013 and we had the good opportunity to spend some time interviewing her. There were many nuggets of wisdom that was imparted by Li Kheng throughout the one hour that we spent talking to her and here are some interesting advice that she has to say to young people.


On Determination

Li Kheng advises young people to not be bitter or cynical about life.  How you view challenges in life and what you do with them is the difference between yourself and everyone else. If you want something badly enough, don’t quit but be resourceful and focused.

We wanted to find out from Li Kheng how to disregard criticism from others and convince ourselves that the path that we are pursuing is the right path even though it is full of challenges. She had to say that first of all, we need to know what we truly want. Most of us simply follow what others have set up for us. She said that if we pursue our true dreams, then regardless of what we go through or what others say about us, we will still believe in ourselves. In general, Li Kheng said that whenever we are doing something that benefits others, we will generally feel satisfied and rewarded.

We pressed Li Kheng further on how to differentiate between a reckless pursuit and perseverance. Li Kheng responded by saying that knowledge is the key. Whenever you practise your knowledge, you gain experience. The key thing to differentiate between making a reckless decision and to continue in a dogged pursuit of something is to analyse the results of making the decision. If the results is not something that strikes a chord in you and, at the same time, causes harms others, then usually it is a bad decision.


On Company Culture

Li Kheng said that she believes that the key to any organisation’s success is its people. She believes that it is important for everyone to be the best of who they are, be they the person sweeping the floor, to the person tending the cashier.

She believes that transparency is a key ingredient to retaining employee. The way she does it was by being very upfront with her employees by finding out about their dreams and asking them if her company could be a platform for them to move together towards their dreams.

Li Kheng said that many of her staff had been loyal to her throughout her time in China. She boils it down mainly to having a family culture in her organisation and treating employees with respect instead of merely a number in an organisation.


Advice To Herself 10 Years Ago

We were very interested to find out was the advice that Li Kheng would have given herself 10 years ago as she was starting out. To that question, Li Kheng said that she wished she would not hesitate so much. She said it is alright to have self-doubt but you should not allow it to pull yourself down. She said having good result check is the most empowering thing to look for in determining whether you did well or not. Constructive feedback from people you trust was also very valuable.


On Spirituality

One of the things that struck us most about Li Kheng is the amount of emphasis she placed on spirituality. It usually seem that spirituality and the pursuit of money are at odds with each other and it is not common to read about an entrepreneur who places such strong emphasis on spirituality. In fact, Li Kheng attributed most of her success in China to the fact that she found peace of mind through meditation. The clarity in meditation helped her in making sound decisions beneficial to her business.

Attributing her success to her guru, Tsem Rinpoche, she said that Buddhism helped her a lot in the beginning when the journey was very volatile. Her advice to anyone young is that young people should not think that spirituality is for the retired. In fact, spirituality has the most value when you are young and facing many challenges.


On Environment

Li Kheng’s focus these days is on the environment. She expressed how she is sad that mankind is constantly chopping down trees to make way for development without thinking about the sustainability of that growth. She pointed out that being environmentally friendly is actually economically feasible yet most people are short-sighted in that respect.

After making a successful sale of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf franchise, Li Kheng is now focused on making the environment a better place. She is focused on reforestation and also growing Kechara Forest Retreat, a Buddhist meditation retreat centre in Bentong.


* This interview with Phng Li Kheng was conducted by Choo Kok Ming and Bobby Ong


7 Secrets of Jack Ma Entrepreneurship Lesson Part 2

Continue of 7 Secrets of Jack Ma Entrepreneurship Lesson Part 1

This is a talk by Jack Ma, the former Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group. Jack Ma shared his experience to the aspiring entrepreneurs who are joining “Win In China” competition, a reality show for aspiring entrepreneurs to win 10 million RMB for their business startup. In the 1st season, 3000 participants were selected to join the interview session and 108 participants will be selected to join the competition officially.

Jack Ma – Win In China – Part 2

Jack Ma

4. Elephant Can’t Kill Ant
Jack Ma’s China Yellowpages business was competing with China Telecom. It was a very tough competition. His capital was 50,000 RMB and China Telecom’s capital was 240 million RMB.

“I think our competition with China Telecom was quite successful. Through the experience, I still believe that we shouldn’t afraid of giant company. Elephant won’t kill ant easily. You just need to hide smartly and having a good strategy. You will survive. After 8 months competition, China Telecom was unable to beat us while we also didn’t know how to beat them. After that, we had a joint venture.”

There were an interesting incident happened after the joint venture. It was actually a disaster. China Telecom invested 1.4million RMB in this deal and they have more members on board. During the board meeting, Jack’s suggestions were turned down by the board members.
“From my perspective, I can do so much with 1.4million RMB from China Telecom. However, from their perspective, they spent only 1.4million RMB to destroy Jack Ma’s venture. I got the fund, but I lost the most valuable thing, the venture that I execute well in the beginning.”, He mentioned.

jack ma5. Be The Role Model of Employee
Jack Ma founded his third company, Cofortune Information Technology. This is a successful company, making profit of 2.9 million RMB in 14 months. However, there was perception different among the leaders. Jack Ma’s believed that internet-based is the future of Ecommerce. However the other leader believed in EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

“When your belief is different with the leader, remember, the leader is always right. If you cannot change him, you change yourself. Therefore, I decided to follow my belief and start over again. Although the company made 2.9 million RMB profit, I didn’t take any cent when I left.”

“I brought 6 people from Hangzhou to build Cofortune. The team has grown to 50 to 60 people. When I left, I didn’t get anyone to follow me. Remember, this is the rule of the game. When you decided the left the company that you have started, and you get the people in the company to follow you, one day later, your employee will do the same.”

“When I left Beijing to start over again, I met with the 6 people who followed me to Beijing in the beginning. I told them, if you are willing to follow me going back to our home (Hangzhou) to start a business again, I’ll give everyone only 500 RMB and everyone must rent a house nearby because I don’t have much fund for your transportation. We will work non-stop for 10 months. If we fail, we just look for a new job.”

Jack Ma offer 3 days to the team to think about the offer, but they came back after 3 minutes. They told Jack, “let’s go home, let’s start over again!”. Alibaba was started then, followed by and Alipay.

jack ma6. You Are The Parents and VC Is the Uncle of Your Business
Alibaba received investment from Son Masayoshi, who is also the 2nd richest man in Japan. Jack Ma mentioned that when dealing with Venture Capitalists, always show the respect in the eye.

“Both sides are equal, when VC asking you 100 questions, you should ask at least 99 questions too.”

“You must understand the belief of the VC when he/she investing and he / she investing in us. We should talk about the worst situation and understand each other’s role in this situation. However, many entrepreneurs only like to talk about how successful they can be.”

“Both side should write down the promise to each other. This is mutual, like a marriage agreement.”

“The communication with VC is very important. Don’t feel that VC is the grandfather. VC is always the uncle and you are the parents of your business. You know how to grow your child (business), and the uncle can offer you advice and money to buy powdered milk and clothes. The responsibility to grow the child is always in your hand. So, VC’s fund is to grow your business. It is not to save your business.”

“When should you raise fund from VC? Remember, it is not when you are poor, always raise fund when your company is having the best performance. One shouldn’t repair the rooftop during the raining day, but it should be done during sunshine day. Same goes to the company transformation, always do it when your company has the best circumstances”

jack-ma7. Hire Smart People Instead of The Master
“We should find the suitable people to join our team.” Jack Ma don’t like to invite popular business people to join the board of director because these big man seldom spending their time in your small company.

“I hired a vice president for first time. We had only USD$5million budget and the Vice President request for at least USD$1.5million. It was because the Vice President had the annual budget with at least USD$40million previously. When he came to our company, the amount was too little for him, but I felt that the amount can do so much advertising activities.”

“Different people have different perspective. Find the right people according to your level and needs. Always remember small company shouldn’t hire the master.”

“When your company is small like a tractor, and you hire the master who has Boeing 747’s engine, your tractor (company) will break when the engine start. Therefore, please do not ask for gorgeous (popular) one when getting people to join your team. Small company should hire smart people with the right mentality.”, He said

Besides these key points, of course, there are more that we can learn from this sharing. For example:
“What an entrepreneur wants is the experience of building the business. In our life, we seldom regret with the things that we have done, but we will regret with this things with haven’t done when we are old. From the first day starting the business, we should already know it is not an easy way, but the experience will be the most valuable asset in life.”

“The best negotiator is always the best listener.”

“One must have a big heart to compete with the competitor in business. Competition is fun. If you feel struggle when competing with the other companies, there must be something wrong with your strategy. Although we have competed with many companies such as eBay, but in my heart, I never see them as my competitors.”

“The most valuable thing between you (entrepreneur) and employee is trust. You must trust them and I never hide any good and bad things from the employees.”

“I have seen some employer who did not know how to criticize the employee. When meeting with employee, the employer praised the employee before criticizing. In the end, the employee didn’t know what is wrong and remains the same. In this situation, we should act fast when we have the decision in mind. This is also our responsibility to the employee.”

This Article is provided by Ray Beh! The Founder of Frambie

Source of the Lessons:

7 Secrets of Jack Ma Entrepreneurship Lesson

7 Secrets of Jack Ma Entrepreneurship Lesson

An inspiring speech by Jack Ma, the former Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group. Jack Ma shared his experience to the aspiring entrepreneurs who are joining “Win In China” competition, a reality show for aspiring entrepreneurs to win 10 million RMB for their business startup. In the 1st season, 3000 participants were selected to join the interview session and 108 participants will be selected to join the competition officially.

Jack Ma – Win In China – Part 1

The article is filled up with Most Important key points and translated into English.

Jack ma

1. Always Know Your Choice
Jack Ma started his first business in 1992, running a language translation center. The business performance wasn’t so good in the beginning. After the third month, they decided to sell flower and premium gift to earn extra income and to cover the rental expense. They found that premium gift was more profitable than language translation business. This also made them struggle whether they should stop the language translation business and focusing on premium gift business. However, they chose language translation business because it was their why they want to startup business in the beginning – to fill the gap between teacher and the market demand of language translation.
“Many entrepreneurs will meet with many new opportunities in their journey. When you meet with these opportunities, you must know how to make the choice. Of course, we have chosen to run the language translation center.”, He said.

2. Small Businesses Need System Too
This incident happened in Teacher’s Day. He had a cashier to help him during that period.

“It was a very busy day. I estimated the revenue is 1100 RMB. However, there was only 400 RMB on the next day and I was curious where the money has gone. So I decided to check the account and found that the cashier has stolen about 100 to 200 RMB everyday. We didn’t know it for 3 to 4 months.”
“Whose fault? It was our fault, it was the system’s fault. A poor system will turn a good employee to a bad employee. Startup entrepreneurs always like to think about the big move such as how to grow the business and forgetting about the system and management in the small company with 4 to 5 people. Without a good system, it will be a disaster of the small company”
Therefore, small businesses need good system too.

3. Riding on The Giant’s ShoulderJack Ma
Jack Ma went to US and decided to run internet business when he returned to China. The business was China’s Yellowpages, also known as China’s first internet-based company.

“1995 was the harder year to run internet-based business. I decided to do internet business after returned from China. I invited 24 friends to meet at my home and nobody understands after 2 hours meeting. There was only a friend agree and he told me to try, if it doesn’t work, I can still come back.”
“Because I have seen internet before and I felt that it will be even better in the future. However, nobody believes in it, because they never seen it, so they didn’t know how to make it.”
“Bill Gates was widely known around the world in 1995. Bill Gates said that internet will change people’s life. Well, actually, Bill Gates didn’t say that. If I told people that Internet will change the world, nobody is going believe. Therefore, I told people that Bill Gates said internet will change the world because I believed that Bill Gates will say it one day.”
He mentioned that the tactic is riding on giant’s shoulder.

To be continued…

This Article is provided by Ray Beh! The Founder of Frambie

Kuala Lumpur Meetup: Premiere Screening of Alibaba Documentary ‘Crocodile in the Yangtze’

TechInAsia is bringing Crocodile in the Yangtze to Kuala Lumpur! Crocodile in the Yangtze is a documentary about the early days of Taobao, the e-store created by Alibaba founder and former CEO Jack Ma.

The film’s producer, Porter Erisman, who worked at Alibaba for ten years, created the 75-minute documentary (see the trailer below) to share how Alibaba grew from a startup to the world-class corporation it is today – and to show how it beat eBay in its home market. Porter will also be there at the Kuala Lumpur Meetup to share his experience of working at Alibaba.

Photo Credit:

Crocodile in the Yangtze has been shown at 16 film festivals and 10 universities, including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, and more. The documentary has been given several awards, including ‘Best Film on Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ at the 2012 Silicon Valley Film Festival.

The trailer of

If you are interested to catch this startup-to-powerhouse blockbuster film, join TechInAsia on June 26, 6:00pm at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus, Lecture Theatrette Two. Tickets are free, but grab them fast while stocks last!


  • 6.00 – 6.30pm: Registration
  • 6:30 – 7.10pm: Networking & Dinner
  • 7:10 – 7.15pm: Introduction from Heislyc Loh, Startup Mamak
  • 7.15 – 7.30pm: Opening Speech from Porter Erisman
  • 7.30 – 8.45pm: [Screening] Crocodile in the Yangtze
  • 8.45 – 9.00pm: Sharing session by Porter Erisman
  • 9:00 – 10.00pm:Networking

Venue: Taylor’s University, Lecture Theatrette Two.
No.1, Jalan Taylor’s, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor

To Register yourself for the event, please go to:

How Nick D’Aloisio made his $30 Million

What’s he doing with $30 million? As Nick D’Aloisio says, “I can’t even buy a car because I don’t have a licence yet.” So he’s going to buy a new bag. Why? “Mine is broken; it’s old and the strap’s not working.”

Recently, Yahoo bought 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio’s iPhone app, Summly, for $30 million. When Yahoo was founded in 1994, Nick wasn’t even born yet.

Nick D'Aloisio
Photo Credit: Kmeron


Nick’s app has delivered over 90 million news summaries in the four short months since he launched it on his 17th birthday in November. But Nick isn’t even old enough to be a Director of his company, so his mum is the Director while he sits in as Company Secretary.

What has gotten Nick D’Aloisio to success so quickly in 15 months when so many of us are still struggling after 15 years? Here’s 3 steps his journey has in common with most super-success stories:



Nick’s Summly App was the solution to a real world problem that no one else was solving well. As Nick relates, “I was 15 years old and I was revising for some kind of history exam. The problem was I was trying to find information that was useful to me.”

Searching Google on his phone didn’t give him enough detail to know what was or wasn’t a useful link. So he put his own iPhone app together. The app quickly rose up the download ranks and Apple featured it in their store.

Then came a fateful email: “About a month later, the private fund of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing cold emailed me and expressed an interest to invest, but they didn’t realize I was 15…It turned out that they actually liked my age because it demonstrated I was net-native, so I’d only grown up with the Internet. They flew to London about a month later and invested $300,000. That kick-started this whole journey.”



Nick D’Aloisio used the money to bring in world experts to help relaunch the app. At 16 years old, he teamed up with the leaders in Natural Language Processing, Stanford Research Institute (Who create Apple’s SIRI – named after the company’s initials, SRI).

In between high school classes in London, Nick worked with SRI in the US by phone and text messages to build the new app. SRI’s solid reputation and Nick’s focus on approaching well known celebrities to help him attracted high profile investors Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono who invested $1.3 million. Nick made the most of his investors, with Stephen Fry starring in the launch video for Summly.



With world class partners and world class investors, Nick D’Aloisio gave up full-time school at the end of 2011, with his parent’s blessing: ““I talked about it with them and my headmaster and we decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it would be silly not to run with it. Now, looking back, I can say it was a massive gamble. But it was a good gamble.”

From a standing start to $30 million, Nick has taken the age old 1-2-3 formula of solving a problem in a smart way, then using the resources he attracts to bring in the best talent, and leveraging that to attract the most influential partners.

What made him think he could just go and knock on the door of the best companies and most well known people in the world? As he says “I was naive. I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

Nick D’Aloisio is now reflecting on this week’s news: “Numbing is probably the best word to describe it. It’s a shock to be honest. The only thing I can take from this is that I’m genuinely kind of proud that I’ve been getting a lot of tweets where young people are commenting and saying, “This is really inspirational, I want to go and start my own thing.”

How many of these 3 steps in the 1-2-3 formula have you taken in your business? What can you do to upgrade your product, your talent or your partners?

Or maybe it’s time to be a kid again, be naive again, when you didn’t know you couldn’t. And start something entirely new.

The intense journey of a Woman Entrepreneur: Ping’s Fu – Inc. Entrepreneur of the Year

If you’re having a hard day, read Woman Entrepreneur Ping Fu’s story. She has had an intense journey from Chinese Exile to Inc Entrepreneur of the Year. She sold her 3D Printing Company, Geomagic, and has now been thrown into new headwinds.

Continue reading The intense journey of a Woman Entrepreneur: Ping’s Fu – Inc. Entrepreneur of the Year