Chen Di, CEO of YouMi: Red Dragon rising!

Despite the global a priori about China’s economy being closed and its iron-fisted state-run system jeopardising its successful emergence into the global business landscape, the reality paints quite a different picture. There is a growing number of Chinese mobile internet firms that are venturing overseas. Among them, the 29 year-old founder and CEO of YouMi – a Chinese Mobile Advertising Network, Mr. Chen Di, is currently blazing the trail for this new wave of China’s entrepreneurial disruptors.

Entrepreneurial Disruptor

By age 26, Chen Di was already spotted by Forbes China as one of the most promising Chinese entrepreneurs to follow. As a teenager, he had toyed with the idea of real estate, then considered finance or technology, but finally decided on a mobile application advertising company. Then in 2009, together with a few fellow students from South China University of Technology, Chen founded YouMi, and has never looked back. If I failed to do something big in my fourth year at the university, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my teammates who studied at prestigious universities, Chen told China Daily USA. YouMi was one of the first mobile advertising platforms in China, and two years after its official launch, it really took off thanks to an angel investment of about 10 million yuan. YouMi expected its revenue to grow to between 80 million yuan and 100 million yuan—and that’s only for 2015!

Conquest of the West

Over the past two decades, an unprecedented explosion of entrepreneurism has transformed the land of what seemed to be a sleeping dragon into a vibrant global business hub. From the renowned e-commerce giant, Alibaba, to the lesser known Baidu, Tencent, YouMi, and Xiaomi, these companies are getting ready to take on the global markets…and earn a recognized place in the global economy. YouMi, one of the industry’s top three Chinese companies, drew the attention of internet industry players worldwide at last year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC 2015) in Barcelona where they launched their newly developed global mobile ad platform Adxmi. Major players like Telefonica in Spain have already signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Chinese mobile advertising platform giant, certainly ample proof that YouMi is ready for the big time!

YouMi’s products have been copied by more than 20 companies in China, but this worries Chen Di not a bit. He firmly believes that “You need to innovate constantly, launch new products in a timely manner and respond to the market.” Products in China are becoming more and more sophisticated, designed with locally developed technology, yet in complete compliance with global standards. While companies in the rest of the world wonder how they can access the fast-rising incomes of China’s 1.4 billion consumers, YouMi has already set sail to conquer the West!

Does Chen Di inspire you? Post your comments below!

Picture above: Courtesy of Forbes China

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Lucy Peng: The quiet force behind Alibaba Group

Guess who is the most influential, rich and powerful women in China? Well, according to Forbes, the highest ranking woman in China, in 2015, goes to the co-founder of Alibaba, Lucy Peng, also known as, Peng Lei. In this year’s World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list, more than half are American and only six are Chinese!

Discreet and Humble Women of Power

As one of the most influential women in the world of technology and business in general, Peng has kept a low profile. She rarely gives interviews and avoids talking about her personal life in public. Peng who was born in Hangzhou, graduated with a Business Management degree from Zhejiang Gongshang University in 1994. Former Economics teacher at Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, Lucy joined Alibaba at the very beginning of the company, in 1999. She met Jack Ma, today known as the “godfather” of Alibaba, through her husband, Sun Danyu. At that time, Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba with only $60,000. Lucy, co-founder and Chief People Officer of Alibaba Group, is nowadays mainly responsible of Human Resources where she is successfully managing talents. Today, she is Alibaba’s most powerful women executive with an estimated net worth of USD 1.2 billion.

Culture is DNA

Often referred in the press as Ma’s right hand, Peng describes her primary mission in the company: “sustaining the development of Alibaba’s corporate infrastructure and the preservation of corporate culture, amid the company’s accelerating growth“. She has a very special role in the company and is perceived by employees as the “guardian angel” : “I take care of the people and the forces that unite them.” Lucy strongly believes that Culture is the most invaluable aspect of Alibaba. Unlike a business, culture cannot be planned or produced. Peng Lei argues that corporate culture has to “emerge” as the company grows, and then shaped to reflect the core values of the business! Indeed, Alibaba new corporate culture includes passing the torch to younger generation : “The internet belongs to young people” , declared the eccentric Jack Ma, who is also convinced that the days of pure patriarchy are gone as we have entered in a new age of female-run enterprises.

Interestingly, only 5% of America’s tech companies are led by women. Despite the gender problem in the tech-industry, the outlook for women in Technology keeps improving with renowned names like Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Susan Wojcicki (Youtube), Ruth Porat (Google), Amy Hood (Microsoft) or Angela Ahrendts (Apple). All of these women are serving as the architects for modern technology as does Lucy Peng in the East!

Peng Lei is undeniably one of the most influential women in business not only in China but globally : “I do not expect the Alibaba team to care only about business, profit, projects and figures. I wish we can accomplish a great goal and gain an unforgettable experience.”

Peng Lei: A model for women-entrepreneurs in the East? Post your comments below!

Evan Spiegel : Meet the man behind the “ghost” App.

Great Evan-gelist… invented the App of the future! Snapchat, with its white ghost-shaped logo, is the temporary photo and video messaging company, which is very popular among millennials. What is exciting in this story is not the App itself but how a simple college assignment was transformed into a USD 19billion worth company? This is the story of Evan Thomas Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of one of the largest and fastest-growing social networks on the Internet.

Enfant Terrible

Despite Snapchat‘s phenomenal global success, the first version of the app was a flop! Picaboo, which failed to get off the ground, was rebranded Snapchat with a few more features. Today, at 25, Spiegel runs a multibillion dollar corporation with hundreds of employees and which has more than 130 million daily active users, chiefly millennials. Son of successful lawyers, John W. Spiegel and Melissa Ann Thomas, Evan is nowadays known to be the world’s youngest billionaire who will be remembered for turning down a USD 3billion offer from Facebook! “There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this,” he told Forbes at the time. “I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.” Another college dropout like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, Evan quitted Stanford University just a few credits short of earning his degree. He was more concerned about completely focusing on Snapchat and its growing success than graduating!

Working the system

Spiegel clearly believes that understanding the patterns behind things and making them work in one’s favour can be more rewarding when it comes to business. When speaking to young people wishing to become entrepreneurs, he stated that: “Life isn’t fair and it’s not about working harder; it’s about working the system.” He also advised them to dare create something that you don’t want to sell.

So far, Evan has been “working the system” quite well, in his professional and private life as well, by dating Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr (ex-wife of Hollywood superstar, Orlando Bloom)! So, how is the kid-turned-celebrity-CEO going to work the system and transform Snapchat into a sustainable and profitable business? Well, it doesn’t seem like Mission Impossible for this enigmatic and resourceful young man whose “Mission Impossible style detonation technology” promises to bring a lot more than “ephemeral” image sharing! Stay tuned!

Consequently, Evan Spiegel strongly believes in Snapchat’s business model. He often claims that : “There is real value in sharing moments that don’t live forever.”  It would be interesting to see if he succeeds in transforming an App into a sustainable business. Well, we now hope that he lives up to the challenge of building something that will ultimately “live forever”!

Snapchat: Sustainable business model or fad? Post your comments below!

Thomas Farley, the Knight of Wall Street

With his Hollywood smile and suave good looks, he’s central casting for the next 007 espionage extravaganza. While you won’t find Thomas Farley outwitting international criminal masterminds anytime soon, you will find this intrepid 39-year-old at the helm of the NYSE.

Big Board’s New Champion

Farley who? You probably recognize his name from last year’s Fortunes 40 under 40 list when he was listed as one of the most influential young people in business.

Son of a retired federal judge and decorated Vietnam veteran, he is the second-youngest person in history to run the Big Board. An impressive resume for this former Georgetown University baseball player, nicknamed “Solid”, led up to his appointment: by his 30th birthday he was already head of the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT). During his tenure there, Tom completely transformed the former NYBOT (renamed ICE); by doubling the trading volumes the (now) ICE saw a six-fold rise in profits.

His new role might be undeniably daunting. Yet, despite a busy schedule, staying fit is vital for this WWE fan, whose early-morning workout group includes Olympic swimmers Conor Dwyer and Matt Targett, as well as the Australian actor Hugh Jackman!

Mission: Keeping the old man of Wall Street in the game!

Tom’s goal is to revitalize the entire institution by simplifying everything – from the NYSE’s trading systems to its office space and, most importantly, by reshaping its culture. “I told him I want our culture to be the one that survives,” to quote Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of ICE. Consequently, when Thomas Farley took control of the New York Stock Exchange, he didn’t only overhaul management, he immediately pushed to revamp its entire trading philosophy.

In a world where financial markets no longer need costly physical institutions to handle trades, reviving the 223-year-old icon of capitalism is no easy job! Seem like mission impossible? Not for Tom!

What do you think of Thomas W. Farley, the young President of NYSE Group? Does he inspire you?

Picture above: Courtesy of NYSE

Omnichannel Revolution underway…

“Omnichannel” is not just the new buzzword to replace “crosschannel” or “multichannel” in the constantly evolving world of Marketing terms. In fact, these terms are very often incorrectly used or used interchangeably by some pundits, as if they had the same meaning! While multichannel simply means having a presence on more than one channel or platform and crosschannel is about, seamlessly and interchangeably, using multiple channels to market, sell, and interact with your customers, on the other hand, Omnichannel is about true continuity of customer experience beyond a single brand’s universe!

The Ultimate Customer Experience

The reality today is that Internet has forced the pace of evolution on businesses in every field or industry globally! Nobody is spared! Customers’ expectations have changed a lot in the past decade and social media has totally evolved the engagement between brands and their customers. For brands, an Omnichannel strategy, designates the aim of delivering consistent brand experience across all possible channels. Brands adopting an omnichannel strategy are wary about providing the same experience and message across different channels and devices involved within their interactions with customers. As a result, businesses are very attentive to the fact that the customers’ shopping journey is not fragmented, but completely seamless. Keeping up with the aspirations of tech-savvy customers regarding brand visibility, availability, service quality and satisfaction are the prerequisites in an Omnichannel environment…

Omnichannel: Turning Evolution into Revolution

Omnichannel is not just a marginal evolution of existing concepts but something that is absolutely going to revolutionize the retail, marketing and global business landscape! Customers are already transacting in an Omnichannel way, and hence, for brands, this can be translated as follows: aligning the brand to the connected-customer needs in order to generate brand loyalty and secure competitive advantage. In other words, it allows brands to get closer to their customers and make customized offers and at the same time, it brings many virtues to customers including enjoying the convenience of their preferred channel, a wider selection of items and a wealth of buying opportunities. Renowned brands like Sephora, Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic, Disney or Macy’s are already reaping the benefits of this strategy. Let’s take Macy’s. There has been a stark contrast in earnings compared to the lackluster figures reported in previous quarters driven mainly by Macy’s investments in its digital efforts. The famous US department store’s omnichannel strategy has been finally paying off!

Will Omnichannel become omnipresent? One thing’s for sure, it is a win-win for everyone! Not to mention that it blurs the lines between online, brick-and-mortar, smartphones and social media for a five-star seamless shopping experience. There is no doubt that Omnichannel is gathering momentum. Not only is it here to stay but businesses not yet present in the Omni arena will strive hard to compete!

Do you know other successful examples of an Omnichannel Strategy ? Feel free to share.

Internet of Things (IoT): The rise of the machines!

If you grew up with James Cameron’s Terminator epic, you might perhaps feel a little uneasy about the Internet of Things. But you better start getting used to it as the rise of the machines revolution is well underway! You’ve heard about connected people (Web 2.0) or connected machines (Web 3.0), the Internet of Things (IoT) is actually the next great phase of the Internet (Web 4.0), a scenario connecting inanimate objects to our needs and desires. These objects could literally be anything from your keys, to refrigerators, lavatories, traffic stop lights, cars, the list really is endless.

IoT: The smart revolution

Are objects around us getting smarter? Physical objects are made “smart” by connecting them to the Internet utilizing ubiquitous sensors aiming to track all sorts of data. People very often tend to hang on the “Things” aspect of IoT. Actually, the real value and insight comes from the data provided by these objects or devices. For the first time in history, we have data on almost anything: from how we brush our teeth to how we drive, how we eat, how we sleep and so on. Today even wigs are getting smarter and your lavatories too! Well, it might seem crazy but imagine your lavatories providing health related insights about pregnancy, bacterial infections or even prompting you to seek medical advice! While smart cement equipped with sensors used in the construction of bridges or buildings will alert us to fix problems about cracks or shocks before causing human tragedies! Despite such benefits, IoT is seen by many as a major challenge to our privacy that needs to be addressed before it goes mainstream!

IoT: Redefining industries and economies

After the introduction of the steam engine (1st), the setting up of assembly line mass production (2nd) and the establishment of automation (3rd), it is now time for the fourth industrial revolution. Already tech giants are getting involved, viewing this as a logical progression from the personal computer and smartphone of previous decades. What does it mean for businesses? This isn’t just about money savings, but this is a huge and fundamental shift. The fact of starting making things “intelligent”, is going to be a major engine for creating new products and services. IoT is paving the way to a whole new “smart” Industry or Industry 4.0, which will very soon become the new Manufacturing standard! And what’s in for us, customers? On top of enjoying a “Smart Home Ecosystem”, where household chores can be handled by opening up an app, everything surrounding us will soon become vital communication tools in helping to make our lives easier, healthier and more productive. Although it all sounds like a futuristic life, thanks to IoT, the future has never been so close!

“The IoT has the potential to transform our society, economy, and how we live our lives,” Samsung CEO Boo Keun Yoon said during a keynote speech at the CES 2015 trade-show in Las Vegas. If organisations are struggling to cope with the rising tide of data volumes at the moment, they’re going to be overwhelmed once the IoT gathers real momentum. Why? Because the IoT is not just about gathering data; it’s also about the analysis and use of that data. And how firms approach this will be key to their success.

Is IoT the next industrial revolution? Feel free to post your comments!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Virtual Reality: The journey From Fantasy to Fact

Remember Marty McFly’s hoverboard from the movie Back to the Future, or Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak? Well, as unbelievable as it may once have seemed, science and modern technology finally caught up with the fantasy world. Indeed, today several futuristic gadgets that once only existed in the pages of fantasy novels or in science fiction movies have become a reality – or are about to any minute – and virtual reality (VR) is no exception!

Welcome to the future!

Virtual reality caught the public’s attention in the late 1980s, but at the time, the expectations of its potential far exceeded the lived reality that it delivered! Despite the growing interest in VR, virtual reality was still just another synonym for science fiction since technology wasn’t yet up to snuff.

And then quite suddenly — barely three decades later, the future knocked on our door and the futuristic fantasy became a reality! From students attending virtual classes, to virtual shopping with your avatar trying on clothes, or attending a concert featuring world famous artists across the globe, virtual reality is becoming more real than reality ever was! Ready or not, VR is about to change life as we know it on this planet. This new market will, in turn, create a new demand for a wide spectrum of virtual products and service providers. And this time, it’s for real!

A new dimension of opportunities for businesses

When it comes to business, the possibilities of making use of VR technology are endless. Virtual Reality technologies have evolved dramatically in the last few decades and this new industry is now picking up speed and rushing headlong towards a fierce competition between a handful of famed tech companies. The different VR competitors fervently believe that there’s a much higher interest in virtual reality than the average person might assume, whether for gaming, entertainment, education, business training or commercial applications. At the moment, the two major leaders in the VR industry include prominent firms like Facebook – who for USD 2 billion acquired the Oculus Rift device and Sony with its VR device, Project Morpheus. While both have been leading a David and Goliath kind of battle, other important tech companies including HTC (HTC Vive), Samsung (Gear VR), Microsoft (HoloLens) or Google (Cardboard) have also joined the ruthless competition.

Everything that’s been happening lately in this new industry seems to lead us into the dream of the future, that is seemingly just waiting for us over the horizon! Although the journey from fantasy to reality in the virtual world seems so compelling… no matter what, virtual spaces are still human ones, filled with human hopes and fears, thus inevitably blurring the line between virtual reality and real life! The sceptics among us may fear that the opportunity to lead a “second life” limited only by the imagination might cause some people to totally withdraw from the real life…

If you’re tempted to walk into new dimensions and experience worlds without limits or perhaps you think it’s only a fad? Share your thoughts with me.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Alexandra Peterson Cart : Bridging Investment and Philanthropy

Who said that investment and philanthropy were worlds apart? Well, not for Alexandra P. Cart, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of Madeira Global, an impact investment and advisory firm. She has been working hard to solve that dichotomy of blending together social philanthropy with an effective model to make money! It was therefore, not surprising to see her in the top 30 Social Entrepreneurs list, in 2015. Her leadership and success in impact investing have been often featured in world-class newspapers and Magazines.

Millennial Social Entrepreneur

Alexandra Cart is not a novice in the Financial sphere, she comes from a line of renowned investment managers – granddaughter of Peter Peterson, a Blackstone co-founder. Surprisingly, Cart who grew up in a very for-profit family headed straight for the nonprofit sector right after her studies! Ergo, Alexandra who holds a B.A. in International Studies and Political Science from Middlebury College, has also worked for the City of New York. She contributed on antipoverty initiatives and programs at the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) for the Office of the Mayor. While working there, she was frustrated by always having to choose between nonprofit and for-profits and was desperately seeking a way to resolve that polarity! Cart has managed to find that balance at Madeira Global, where she is regularly seeking to deploy assets with a social lens. Alexandra is driven by the conviction that Millennials today are opting to become social entrepreneurs because they want to go beyond “Business As Usual”!

Catalyzing Social Change

Despite her famous family background, Alexandra is forging her own path in the impact investing business and has started to make a name for herself with Madeira Global. The advisory firm, is nowadays widely recognized as a leader in the investment management industry for optimizing the alignment of social and financial returns by leaning on values-based investment philosophy. Intentionally seeking social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns, this is the motto of Cart’s business! When questioned about her definition of Impact Investing, the 29 year old replies: “I think that impact investing is perhaps the perfect confluence between Philanthropy and Finance, so it takes the best of both worlds.” Our young millennial has realized that younger generations these days are more open to the potential of impact investing than older generations, who tend to focus on more traditional modes of philanthropy such charity and so on. “I think impact investing will be a huge industry over the next couple years.”

Cart is undeniably a leader in social impact investments, a personal passion that has its roots in her heritage. She believes that it is possible to reach a number of young people through impact investing where it would be impossible with nonprofit institutions. Well, moving from an aid to an economic model with a for-profit mindset, is the new challenge of today’s Social Entrepreneurs.

Alexandra Cart, is definitely this new Millennial social entrepreneur who takes the bull-by-the-horns. Well, let’s hope that together with her fellow “Millennials” , they manage to create global engagement and succeed where our fathers and forefathers have failed!

Social Entrepreneurship: Fad or a new way of doing business? Share your thoughts!

Leadership and Management style: East tops West

Different cultures can have radically different leadership and management styles, and if you want to do business cross-border, you better be fully cognizant of what it implies. While, American CEOs tend to adopt a more charismatic and innovative style and European leaders would opt for a participative and socially responsible approach, Chinese leaders, who have the reputation of a directive and didactic modus operandi, have evolved and become more people-centric and insightful. 

Western Leadership : Influential and ethical

Western leadership principles have been focusing on elements such as profits, human relationships, and long term strategic planning. Whether in Europe or USA, employers emphasize the value of respecting employees, valuing their contribution and promoting their career development. Now what about the personality of those business leaders? Nowadays, U.S. executives are usually known to be charismatic and influential, whose fame and force of personality impress the global business landscape as well as the media! Charismatic leadership has come to be the ideal for American businesses: Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos incarnate those magnetic leaders!

The business culture in Europe may be a bit less star-focused but EU leaders believe in effective and ethical leadership incorporating a more participative governance model. Corporate Responsibility is not a fad, but an imperative for the European counterparts like Stanislas de Quercize (CEO of Cartier), Timotheus Höttges (Deutsche Telekom), Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal), and Gérard Mestrallet (Engie ex-GDF Suez), just to name a few, who value above all sustainable business growth.

Chinese Leadership : Ying and Yang

Profit was seen as contrary to the righteousness of mainstream Confucian teachings. Traditional Chinese leadership principles include considering ethical aspects above the achievement of profit but also comprise leading by example in terms of promoting equality, simple living and harmony. Today, Chinese workplaces have evolved and the concepts of leadership too. Long gone are the days when the social and cultural environment in China was extremely hostile to private enterprises. By integrating methods from Western management approaches, through education abroad and exposure to Western organisations present in China, Chinese leadership paradigms have changed but without losing sight of their rich cultural heritage.

There may still be major disparities like for example, political connections and family control tend to be more common in Asian businesses, unlike Westerners who groom their successors from talented employees in the workforce instead. Yet, Chinese business leaders including Jack Ma (Alibaba), Lei Jun (Xiaomi), Ma Huateng (Tencent) and Wang Jianlin (Wanda) have successfully reversed the prevailing cultural prejudice.

While the leadership style of Westerners haven’t evolved much in the last decade, the new generation of Chinese leaders have made a great leap forward by taking the best from traditional Chinese and Western leadership styles.

In fact, Global Business leaders can really make a difference in the way corporations affect the world. Clearly, no one leadership model is a universal remedy. But nowadays, CEOs are expected to adopt a more people-focused, ethical, innovative, long-term thinking and planning approach, and providing for the interests of a broad range of stakeholders, including the environment and future generations. Well, it is no easy job, as Globalization and major global concerns keep challenging leadership styles and practices as a whole! 

What other qualities do you expect to see in Global Business Leaders? Share your thoughts!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©