Be curious.

September 3, 2017

Inhaling the spirit of the Chinese startup scene

We are living in a fast spinning world: digitalization, urbanization, new technologies indicate a wave of changes in customers' lifestyles, desires and demands. As a consequence, several industries are going to change a lot in the next few decades. New business models emerge and the competitive landscape might also change. As it is often the case when an industry is going to be turned upside-down, there are actually a number of separate things happening, which feed on each other and accelerate the pace of transition.

When it comes to my projects, I support clients to cope with the accelerated speed and especially with the digital transformation. Besides working with our clients, I spend a lot of time identifying and meeting players at the forefront of innovation (e.g. startups, venture capitalists). Often I find myself acting as mediator between the startup scene and traditional corporations. In that context I also take our clients on a journey to meet these very fast acting and agile young corporations, willing to disrupt whole industries.

I recently returned from such a journey with one of my clients. We escaped from existing routines and flew to Beijing (China) to be guests at some of the most promising and disruptive companies. China is known as the world's power engine (even though their stock exchange crashed recently) and is a vibrant and very innovative metropolis. It was eye-opening to see how Chinese consumers are much more advanced in using digital technologies compared to us in Europe. Trends and business models that are currently emerging in Europe are already standard in China (e.g. mobile payment).

With a small delegation of 10 people we met tech giants such as Alibaba or LeTV, young startups with disruptive ideas such as yongche or venture capitalists such as to challenge our perspectives and get external impulses for our project. It was a fascinating spirit and an uplifting atmosphere where everyone was able to connect with one another. For me, most impressive was the success story of Alibaba. It is amazing to see how Jack Ma crafted a giant with products such as Taobao, Alipay or Kungfu, not only disrupting one but several industries.

The schedule over the 4 days we spent in Beijing was quite tight. Therefore, I arrived earlier during the weekend to get the last organizational issues done. That gave me some time to explore the ancient part of the city by climbing up the Great Chinese Wall, which is with a length of 21.196 km one of the biggest constructions in the world.

In the evenings we enjoyed great Chinese and Asian fusion food; it was delicious and strengthened our ties with the client. At the end, these days have been a great success. All the inspirations empowered our project- and client team to see the future with its upcoming challenges and opportunities much clearer. Being back in Germany, we are now working hard to enable the future.

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  • Photos Tom Merton/iStock; Takashi Kitajima/Getty images