A startup lesson for would-be entrepreneurs
Updated: 2011-03-11 11:30
By Lan Lan and Chang Jun (China Daily)
SAN FRANCISCO - When the dotcom bubble burst in the 1990s and cast a shadow over Silicon Valley, Wu Ping felt it was time for him to return to China.
At that time, Wu had been working with companies in Silicon Valley, initially as an engineer in one company, and later as a director of Mobilink Telecom Inc, a mobile phone chipset supplier.
"I smelled opportunities in China's burgeoning chip industry," Wu said, with China then designing tax policies favorable to software and semiconductor industries.
The country was also beginning to mull over the launch of the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) Board.
But Wu's attempts to start a company were painful and tough. In contrast to today's robust domestic fund market, there were very few Chinese venture investors then.
After many tries, almost all the money raised by Wu was from overseas venture funds, and he set up Spreadtrum Communications Inc in 2000, which later developed world's first TD-SCDMA base-band chip.
The company completed its initial public offering and became listed on the Nasdaq in 2007, two years before Beijing launched its GEM Board as plans were suspended for various reasons.
Wu is one of a group of Chinese engineers who had settled in Silicon Valley, but had the courage to give themselves a new beginning around 2000.
Some did fail, but at least five companies created by them have been listed on the Nasdaq.
Wu said China now has the best environment for would-be entrepreneurs as abundant capital can be easily obtained, as long as you have an excellent project.
"Domestic funds are booming," he said, adding that enormous opportunities will be released as the country is restructuring its economy.
Wu said he would encourage overseas talents with zeal to be an entrepreneur to seize the next 10-year "golden age".
Silicon Valley, a leading hub for many technology companies, has perhaps the largest overseas cluster of Chinese engineers, many of whom face an intangible ceiling in their career development.
Wu was one of them, but having experienced 10 years of rapid growth of Silicon Valley's technical firms, he understood a stock exchange similar to the Nasdaq will bode well for the future of China's emerging high-tech companies.
Besides Spreadtrum, Wu has established three companies related to telecommunication companies or property industry.
He is also chairman of US-China Association of High-level Professionals, a California registered nonprofit organization.
The organization hosts an annual startup contest dubbed "Win the 21st Century". Winners will be eligible to receive funds and other investments ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.
"I always recall the bitter days that we were seeking for venture capital funds, totally without sense of direction. I hope to build a channel for new would-be entrepreneurs to access funds," Wu said.
"Starting a startup is not just about enthusiasm. It's largely a matter of vision."
He encountered various challenges in the company-building process, in particular, different company cultures between China and the United States.
As an example, Wu - who is CEO of his company - would always greet his staff members, but many young engineers would ignore him simply because they had never formed such habit.
It also took years to build a qualified local team by giving a series of training programs to the engineers ranging from product quality control to communication skills.
One of the company's slogans was "high-tech, low profile", which called on employees to focus on technology initiative while keeping a modest and pragmatic manner.
Another challenge facing might be divergence views among family members about returning to China, something Wu faced himself.
It took four years for Wu to persuade his wife to return to China with him because she felt worried about their two children's upbringing environment.
"Now she is more willing to stay in China. Shanghai had changed drastically over the last 10 years," Wu said.
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