iAsk Xiaobo Wu: How does it feel to collide with capital?
When it comes to Xiaobo Wu, people seem to habitually add the title - "famous financial writer" on him.
Xiaobo Wu's achievements are worthy of his title: in 2001, he published a book named Da Bai Ju (The Great Failure). Although it’s a serious business publication, it still managed to rank among the bestsellers; the Lan Shizi Financial and Economic Series he initiated has become a famous brand among domestic financial publications. Having composed for 20 years, Xiaobo Wu is still working hard to keep writing one book per year.
He is hardworking and successful enough.
If Xiaobo Wu's articles are spikes to express his own views, then his business operation would be a shield to protect his freedom of writing: He established a self-media matrix targeting middle-class people with higher education backgrounds, becoming the pioneer in the self-media investment sector. Later on, he jointly launched the Toutoushidao Fund with business partners. Among the projects he invested in, there are many content distribution platforms such as Toutiao and Ximalaya, head-of-long-tail-effect companies such as Shanghai Tingdong Film Co. by Han han, as well as other frontier self-media such as Yitiao Video and Cat’s Kitchen. The business is still expanding.
Story No. 1:
Today, slash youths are gaining momentum in the mainstream society. It refers to the lifestyle that does not limit to a specific occupation, i.e. the people with multiple occupations and multi-faceted life, originating from the English word “slash”. For Xiaobo Wu at the age of 50, he should be called a "slash middle-aged man": financial writer/ scholar/ businessman/ investor/ island owner...
However, one of his favorite and longest-lasting things is writing.
Xiaobo Wu's first collection of essays is called Spend Your Time on the Fine Things. He said that life is a way of spending from beginning to end. What you need to judge is whether every "spending" is worthy enough. Undoubtedly, in Xiaobo Wu's view, writing is a fine “spending”.
After 13 years of work at Xinhua News Agency, Xiaobo Wu is awe-inspired and rigorous about writing; hundreds of articles for columns shaped his elegant and vivid writing style. What remains unchanged is that he has been writing financial reviews since he started working in the 1990s and he’s still doing it. At the age of 30, Xiaobo Wu began to write books at an uncontrollable speed. He conveyed his financial observation and business thinking via books at of frequency of one work per year. His works such as Stirring Three Decades and Da Bai Ju gradually established his reputation in the field of financial writing.
Xiaobo Wu is well-versed in both writing and financing. In 2005, Xiaobo Wu founded Lan Shizi, a financial publishing institution, and actively sought financing for the company. That was Xiaobo Wu’s first interaction with financing. “For me, it’s still a major capital lesson.”
iAsk Xiaobo Wu: How does it feel when a cultural company collide with capital?
Gloria Ai: When you first came into contact with capital, what did you think of investors?
Xiaobo Wu: I didn’t know much about venture capital for a long time. I just thought I needed this much money. I needed about RMB 10 million yuan at that time. He was willing to sponsor me the money to help me take risks.
Gloria Ai: Do you think he was helping you?
Xiaobo Wu: Of course he helped me, but I was hoping that when he helped me, I could help him as well and increase the value of his capital. Looking back now, I remember he told me a lot of things at the time. He did not achieve his goals, but that was the first time we directly interacted with a venture capitalist.
Gloria Ai: In your mind, what is the most admirable or the most averse thing of a pure investor?
Xiaobo Wu: I think what I admire most is their acumen to the industry.
Gloria Ai: But there must be some parts that make you wary of capital.
Xiaobo Wu: Yes, of course, I didn’t realize it at the beginning, but after three or four years of capital injection, you would feel tremendous pressure because it’s going to exit. Since a large amount of the capital structure is 5+2 or 7+2, it will oppress you when it prepares to exit.
Story No. 2:
Scholar and businessman, two seemingly opposite and contradictory identities, can coexist harmoniously in Xiaobo Wu's logic.
For many years, Xiaobo Wu has been been upholding a motto by Roosevelt: "As an intellectual, you must have another career that you make a living from." In a commercial society where everything can be quantified by wealth, freedom of thought is no longer a philosophical term, but an upscale attitude to life, based on the freedom of wealth.
In Xiaobo Wu's logic, if you want to materialize "freedom of writing," you should first realize "freedom of wealth." So this former media person began to become a self-media investor. In Xiaobo Wu's investment experience, there was an important partner. Xiaobo Wu also wrote an article specifically describing him as "Tony who jointly invested in self-media with me". His name is Guoxiong Cao.
Guoxiong Cao, Founder of Matrix Partners China's RMB fund, has invested in projects such as Bona Film Group and Han Han’s movies in the past few years, and was also one of the B-round investors of Xiaobo Wu's Lan Shizi. Xiaobo Wu attributed his friendship with Guoxiong Cao to "we both live in Hangzhou and love to watch movies."
The two men started testing the water in investing in 2015. Xiaobo Wu and Guoxiong Cao only picked self-media when they founded the Shixiangjia Fund. Within less than a year, they invested in nine public accounts. In the same year, they founded the Toutoushidao investment fund. Now the latter has gradually evolved into a consumption fund covering the four major cultural consumption fields.
The investment business has been doing well, but Xiaobo Wu himself is very modest: "I will not be an outstanding investor because I lack the basic qualities of being a professional investor."
iAsk Xiaobo Wu: Are you a qualified investor?
Gloria Ai: If you hadn’t run Lan Shizi or 890 New Media and focused on being an investor, would you be an excellent investor?
Xiaobo Wu: I wouldn’t. In fact, I lack the basic qualities of being a professional investor. I am not curious about the industries that I am not interested in. When it comes to financial culture, there are dramas, movies, camping... but I may only be interested in a small part of it, but if you are an investor in the cultural industry, you need to be interested in everything; I have no such curiosity.
Gloria Ai: When we assess whether a person can become a good investor, the key is to judge by his success and failure as well as his return. What was the ratio of success and failure based on your own investment experience?
Xiaobo Wu: Most of my direct investments have failed.
Gloria Ai: Then how could you claim yourself as an entrepreneurial investor?
Xiaobo Wu: I think there are two relatively successful funds. One is the Shixiangjia Fund, the other is the Toutoushidao Fund. Even though the Shixiangjia Fund is closed, it can basically be considered a successful project.
Gloria Ai: Although you are called an Entrepreneurial Investor, does your secret of investment success lie in finding the person you think is the most professional to assist you in making decisions?
Xiaobo Wu: Yes, I rely on professional investment teams. When I reached out to Guoxiong Cao, he had been working in this line of business for 10 years. I think this is particularly important.
Gloria Ai: For entrepreneurs, is it a standard mode for them to team up with professional investors just like you did if they want to become Entrepreneurial Investors?
Xiaobo Wu: I think it should be, or he could ask a fund to do it. He serves either as a general partner or as a manager.
Story No. 3:
“From today, there is a type of entrepreneurs called ‘Entrepreneurial Investors’.”
In 2017, Xiaobo Wu officially proposed the concept of Entrepreneurial Investors on the "Wu Xiaobo Channel". In his view, China's commercial civilization is rapidly evolving from the era of industry commercialism to the era of industry and financing commercial civilization. The role of entrepreneurs will also change accordingly.
"Entrepreneurship and investing are not contradictory. Both aspects should be valued. Applying the wisdom from running a business to venture capital is a common feature and the key to increasing the value of their wealth exponentially. In China nowadays, the most qualified candidates for Entrepreneurial Investors are those who have already achieved success in the real economy and hope to move forward with the times through investment. Their year of birth spans from 1950s to 1980s.
Some people have negated or doubted this concept, but Xiaobo Wu has been steadfast from the beginning: "I have no doubt at all. I think this must be a direction for enterprises to exist or diverge in the future." The way of existence is diverse.
"For example, Boquan He upholds a series way of doing business. After he completes one undertaking, he puts an end to it and moves on to the second and third. But I lean towards a parallel state, meaning that I still run my cultural company while investing in some emerging industries related to culture. This is our biggest difference."
iAsk Xiaobo Wu: What is Entrepreneurial Investor like in your mind?
Gloria Ai: I remember that in March 2017, you first mentioned at the discussion panel that Entrepreneurial Investors are a new species. If I ask you the same question again today, would your answer stay the same?
Xiaobo Wu: I think among the group of entrepreneurs in the future. There will be The first kind
of people, who are focused on their own industry and excel at the line of work. Another kind of people have their own investment mentality and beliefs. They would use their own company as a target to attract investments. In the meantime, as investors, they would invest in industries either relevant or irrelevant to their own. He would demonstrate a compound identity from both business entity operations and Investment mentality.
Gloria Ai: Should enterprise investors be more needed by this era than pure entrepreneurs and investors?
Xiaobo Wu: I think Entrepreneurial Investors are in fact a certain form of existence. There are of course pure investors, but there’re also another group of people, who might have operated their own businesses, just like Nanpeng Shen. There might be others like me. I’m still running 890 New Media. Meanwhile I’m also investing through a fund. There are people like Dewang Cao, who never engage in investing. They only focus on their own field of expertise they enjoy.Gloria Ai: So Entrepreneurial Investors are just one of so many forms?
Xiaobo Wu: Yes, I think it is a state of existence, and this state of existence is more in line with the current state and future of the Chinese business world.