Incubator executive aims to guide US, Chinese firms to success

Updated: 2012-08-17 10:58

By Zhang Qidong in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Incubator executive aims to guide US, Chinese firms to success

Wang Hanguang is a noted calligraphry artist, science whiz and tech-startup impresario. Zhang Qidong / China Daily

Up, down and without its handler pausing for a breath, the brush dances along the rice paper, stopping when its strokes have rendered the word for dragon in Chinese calligraphy.

Wielding the brush is Wang Hanguang, who as a member of the Chinese National Calligraphy Association is respected practitioner of the art. His work is valued by collectors and has even been given as gifts by China's diplomats to counterparts in the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.

But that's not the only distinction for the multitalented Wang.

In February, Wang flew on the plane with China's Vice-President Xi Jinping as a guest when Xi was to meet US President Barack Obama. In June, he was in Northern California to finalize a property contract as Xi and US Vice-President Joe Biden looked on, during the China-US Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum.

The contract-signing launched Hanhai Investment Group and opened its more than 80,000-square-foot office building in San Jose, making Wang the owner of China's biggest privately held business-incubation provider in the US.

As chairman of Hanhai Zhiye Investment Group, Wang oversees a Beijing-based empire with 300 million yuan ($50 million) in assets, including a business park, five scientific-technology incubator buildings with over 3 million square feet and more than a decade of experience developing Chinese startups.

Born in the 1960s in Zibo, Shangdong province, Wang was raised by grandmother, whom he describes as strong, thrifty, hard-working and kind. Life was hard for the family, but she instilled in her children and grandson principles that Wang still follows.

"My grandmother always told me not to hesitate to make an effort to help other people, even if it means losing money or spending extra time," he said "What you win over is a person's heart and friendship, and those are the most valuable things in life."

Wang earned his reputation in his early 20s when he worked for Qilu Petroleum and Chemical Co, one of the biggest companies of its kind in China. His scientific research earned four awards from Shandong's provincial government as the year's best technical contribution from a young person.

What impressed his co-workers most, however, was an incident they won't forget.

A testing machine had broken down and was about to explode with dangerous chemicals during a demonstration with over 100 people watching. Wang climbed atop the machine and shut it down just in time, saving the lives of the stunned attendees. The machine's shaking, however, threw him high into the air. His hard fall to the floor left Wang hospitalized for several days until he regained consciousness.

His heroic act recognized, Wang was named a "model citizen" of the city, not only for saving lives but also preventing the loss of expensive company equipment.

Wang attributes most of his success to serendipity. "I just happen to be there at the right place and right time, and making the right decision," he said.

Bounding into the US market with a real estate investment makes him especially proud.

"The board was kind of shocked when I told them my decision, but they all supported me after I explained to them why.

"This is an effort we make to integrate commercial real estate management with technology industry aggregation. We want to demonstrate our company's ambition and confidence in breaking into one of the largest markets in North America."

Wang views the search for tech talent and incubation-ready startups as crucial.

"I believe in taking the initiative in the US for talent; incubation is extremely important in today's business world," he said. "We will focus on bringing Chinese businesses into the US, creating local jobs, bringing more investment into the US market and prospecting talent and companies that would like to do business in China."

Hanhai Investment, which is backed by China's industry-leading Zhongguancun Science Park, will provide high-quality professional services to startup companies in both the US and China. The goal is to help enterprises and personnel interested in cross-border expansion by providing services such as entrepreneur mentoring as well as advice on technological development, financing and project planning

Wang's decision arose from his having noticed two phenomena in recent years: Many Chinese companies intended to do business in the US but had no clue how, while US startups in China lacked resources to get established locally.

"We now can do the perfect matchmaking - providing market channels and having both sides take advantage of Hanhai's connections in China with this platform," he said.

For US companies trying to break into China, the resource deficiency usually is tied to staffing, office space, equipment, connections, tax incentives, legal counsel, knowledge and training, funding and a professional environment that promotes business progress. Wang favors the "plug and play" business model, in which a business incubator equips its members with phones, IT support, cleaning, shipping, financial services and 24-hour security guards.

"We chose our US headquarters to be in a prime area of the Bay Area because it's where US businesses can prepare before crossing the ocean. We also value the location because this is where high-tech talent gathers. We want to show that our company isn't only serious about helping Chinese tech companies launch their business in the US but is also serious about helping US companies enter the Chinese market.

"In that sense, our incubation center is a perfect window for both sides to start up their ventures. US companies will have a chance to know about doing business in China, and Chinese firms can take a chance on going abroad and doing business in the US."

This endeavor is just a start, Wang said. He plans to buy commercial property to establish scientific centers in North Carolina and Boston. In the near term, he envisions a biotechnology-science incubation center in Redwood City, California, where many biotech companies are located.

"The challenge we face, however, is how we stand out in this niche market and make it a success," he said. "We're taking advantage of the market by getting a head-start, but there is still a lot to learn from US incubators that have been in this business for years, especially in Silicon Valley."

Wang's appreciation for learning is shown in his still-daily practice of calligraphy. Even while on a dignitary's US-bound airplane, he found time to put brush to paper. Many of his works hang in the office buildings his company owns. His passion for art reflects what Wang believes he should achieve in life.

"Art and business are actually closely related with very similar principles. Calligraphy brings me calmness and lightheartedness in today's fast-spinning world. It even helps decision-making because calligraphy helps practice 'inner peace' that keeps great balance for a businessman like me."