Chu Wen: Many people asked me why I didn't invest in Didi or Xiaomi? | iAsk Top Leaders
People who don't know Chu Wen well think that he is always engaged in running a club and a school to build a network. People who know him well understand that he enjoys exploring, seeking knowledge and sharing. He yearns to make contributions to cross-border exchanges and science revival.
In the past decade, the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) initiated by Chu Wen has attracted innovators from science, technology, investment, media and other fields from more than 70 countries around the globe. Participants included Geoffrey Hinton, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, Erdal Arikan, the discoverer of polar codes for 5G, Neil Shen, Managing Partner of Sequoia Capital, Jun Lei, Founder of Xiaomi, Wei Cheng, Founder of Didi, Bai Lu, Professor of Tsinghua University and so forth... The purpose of attending GMIC is simply to share innovative ideas, exchange views and learn something you don't already know.
Chu Wen expressed that they would adhere to the upside of the mobile Internet and abide by relevant regulations and instructions. He believes that he lacks depth and hence strives to extend his width for life. In this issue of "iAsk Top Leaders", iAsk Founder Gloria Ai spoke with GWC Founder Chu Wen.
Why does he choose not to be a gullible person in China?
Gloria Ai:This year, GMIC is themed as "Science Revival Festival". Why do you eagerly strive to revive science?
Chu Wen:GMIC once invited a scientist named Hiroshi Ishiguro. I remember vividly that he is a professor studying robots. Back then, he brought his girlfriend to the venue. His girlfriend was very special, who was a gorgeous humanoid robot. His speech was a hit, attracting more attention than speeches by other renowned technology experts. I was strongly intrigued and found this scientist interesting that he could grasp this much attention. Hence, I spoke with these scientists and noticed during the communications that their way of thinking was very different. For a fundamental laboratory scientific research subject, they would take into account 30 years of development and segment the duration by decades from a long-term perspective.We used to attempt to solve issues hastily, so I would like to share the outlook through science revival.
Gloria Ai:It takes a long time to revive science. In the meantime, you also started your own business, including the Great Wall Club (GWC), and GASA University. Are you able to multitask?
Chu Wen:I always emphasize that I don't want to beagullible person in China. I prefer to be a universal postboy. That is what I desire to become the most.Therefore, I make trade-offs. In a sense, given my experiences in the past ten years, if I had been in a negative state of mind, I would have been depressed already.
For example, Wei Cheng, a good friend of mine, who won the third place at the GMIC entrepreneurial competition in 2013, has become one of the most promising business leaders of the younger generation in China. My mentor Jun Lei was my first angel investor. Nowadays, Xiaomi has become a legend. Many people asked me why I didn't invest in Didi or Xiaomi in the early stages, even if it's only RMB 100,000 or 10,000.
This is not the most ridiculous story. Vijay, CEO of Paytm in India, visited me a few years ago. Back then, an Indian coworker told me that an entrepreneur wished to meet me. Vijay spoke highly of GMIC and said he could envision the future of India's mobile Internet sector. At last, he added that he was impressed by the independent thinking ability of Jian Wang (Alibaba CTO) and was eager to meet him in person. I said that's easy and that I could introduce him to Mr. Wang. Then I asked my coworker to set up a meeting for him and Jian Wang. Later on, Jian Wang introduced him to Jack Ma, who invested USD 600 million in Vijay's business. Nowadays, Paytm has become the Indian equivalent of Alipay.
We have done favors to countless people, just as the saying goes "the fragrance always lingers in the hand that gives roses". However, if I view things from this perspective, I would feel upset considering wealth or worldly pursuits.
What kind of exploration takes a millennium?
Gloria Ai:You wrote in your book "Universal Postboy" why everyone competes to be the "Apple" in Silicon Valley? Although the Apple is appealing, if we fail to be the Apple, how can we make peace with life? Even if we can't be a leader, maybe we can still be heroes for ourselves?
Chu Wen:In fact, this is just like science, where exploration itself brings you pleasure. When you are driven by curiosity and think it's fun, you shouldn't care too much about results. More often than not, passion and curiosity can release one's infinite potential on something. Constant explorations might lead you to unexpected encounters and mindsets.
Gloria Ai:Was the establishment of GASA University also driven by curiosity?
Chu Wen:For the same reason, I asked myself again. At present, isn't managing a school similar to running a club in a sense? If you're dedicated to an undertaking to its extreme, you'll eventually reach the same goal through different means. Personally speaking, through GMIC, through our channel, through GASA University, through our learning activities, we can create value. In a sense, you may regard it as cultivation, through which we will achieve the same goal ultimately.
Gloria Ai:What goal is it?
Chu Wen:Someone asked me before whether I have heard of the mission of Hupan University, which is to last 300 years. I thought to myself that it echoed with my goal of exploring for a millennium. In 2016, I visited ten elderlies before I founded GASA University. All of them were over 80 years old. I have visited Professor Hawking, Simon Perez, Master Nebula and so on. I was hoping to see what inspirations I could obtain from thinkers of diverse dimensions and various fields. The conclusion was to explore persistently by establishing GASA University.
Gloria Ai: Jack Ma aims to run the university for 3 centuries. You wish to go through a millennium. Does the legend of long-lasting business really exist?
Chu Wen: Based on my observation, for example, there are plentiful century-old stores in Japan. There must be a rule or pattern behind it. The key is to have dedication, either to a company, to a person, or to your own life. With such dedication, you will get closer to the goal.
Gloria Ai:What's your vision of GMIC in ten years? What will you be doing in a decade?
Chu Wen:There is a saying called the joy of thinking. GMIC is a place that creates pleasure from thinking. I still insist on being a universal postboy and making small daily progress that leads to changes with each passing day.
iAsk Media offers in-depth coverage, distribution, and brand-building services for founders in both China inbound and outbound markets. Over the past five years, iAsk Media has published over 1300 pieces of founder-focused original text and audio content, and produced over 120 premium video dialogues with leading entrepreneurs and investors.
iAsk Capital further supports founders by complementing media, brand-building, and marketing solutions with a wide range of investment and advisory services, from growth capital and direct equity investment to fundraising, asset management, and M&A support. To date, iAsk Capital has completed investments in some of China’s fastest growing ventures, including Bytedance, Himalaya, Movietime, and Horizon Robotics.
Gloria Ai is the founder of iAsk Media and the founding manager of iAsk Capital, and a former venture partner at the Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. She serves as the international brand ambassador to her hometown of Huangshan, and was Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Media, Marketing & Advertising category. She is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and Peking University. Prior to founding iAsk, she served as a financial news correspondent for China Central Television in New York.