Lack of college degree no handicap to hackathon pioneer

Updated: 2015-05-03 20:22


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Lack of college degree no handicap to hackathon pioneer

Gao Yang, second right, and colleagues in SegmentFault. [Photo/]

Listed as one of "China's 30 under 30" by Forbes last year and initiator of China's hackathon – an event gathering programmers to collaborate on software-related projects - Gao Yang sometimes generates more attention from his past experiences than for his business project.

Born into a rural family in Shandong province in 1990, Gao enjoyed no advantages and failed the college entrance examination, or gaokao, in 2008, a test considered by many the only way to success.

But still he succeeded, judging from his company and present fame.

The secret to his success, unexpectedly, is also the cause of his failure in gaokao, his enthusiasm for the Internet.

Gao developed his huge interest during his third year of high school where he spent a lot of time on Renren, a Chinese version of Facebook, while other students remained busy preparing for the exams. Unsurprisingly, he failed.

"My network building started in the online community," Gao said, "I have so far added about 2,000 contacts on the website. Now I have friends in almost all Internet companies".

After the exam, he took a job in a logistics company where he had free access to Internet. He continued his exploration on SNS and began learning programming.

A year later, Gao quit and went to a university after taking an adult entrance exam only to find college life not suitable for him. He left after three months and joined in a startup company doing social network game.

"I was lucky to join the company when social network game was popular," Gao said, "When I left the number of employees had risen to 60 from 7, and its capital flow had grown to 100 million yuan ($16.13 million).

"It was the first time I felt the power of Internet startup companies," he said.

Gao began a new career with AngelCrunch, an online Chinese community that connects startup companies and angel investors, setting up SegmentFault, an online Q&A community for programmers. Without management, the community saw more than 2,000 registered users in just months, making Gao realize the potential in providing services for programmers.

Having been thinking about starting his own business for some time, Gao, with two friends, quit their jobs and registered a company for SegmentFault in Hangzhou in June 2012, marking the official beginning of their entrepreneurship.

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