Tom Davidson, EverFi: “The Real Key to Success – Working Really Hard On Whatever Place You Are in Life”


tom and tien
Tien Wong, Tech 2000 Inc. interviews Tom Davidson, EverFi at ConnectPreneur 2015

How do you become an entrepreneur? What are the qualities which help a young person to be successful in this challenging, ever-changing environment?

People take many different paths. But sometimes inspiration comes from the person closest to you, like your mother.

“When I was a kid,” shared Tom Davidson, the founder of EverFi, at another super successful ConnectPreneur session, featuring top DC entrepreneurs and VC firms, “my mother used to take us places and when she’d see someone working hard, she’d pull the car over, and pointed to the person, whoever it was at the moment, someone cleaning the street really well, and explained to us that this is the real key to success – working really hard on whatever place you are in life.

“It wasn’t about the empathy, but rather the ultimate respect and importance of hard work,” explained Tom. “That really was the foundation and inspiration for me. My mother instilled these qualities in me.”

Apart from respecting the work, you need to actually do it, and a lot of it.

Davidson trained his persistence when he was just a senior at Bowdoin College, when he ran for the Maine House of Representatives. There was a lot of resistance along the way, but he eventually got elected in 1994, and served three terms. Perseverance helped Tom knock on more than 30,000 doors!

After that, Davidson thrived as an investment banker and venture capitalist, investing in early-stage tech companies in education and social media areas.

Yet real entrepreneurs never stop after their achievements; they always have a strong vision for the next big thing. Starting EverFi company in a small Georgetown apartment along with his co-founders, Jon Chapman and Ray Martinez in 2008, he and his team created one of the most successful tech companies in the DC area! The company addressed critical challenges facing the millennial generation through innovative technology.

In 2013 EverFi reached an incredible result – its learning platform was used in over 5,000 K-12 schools and over 500 colleges and universities. Thanks to synergies with top corporate partners and foundations, EverFi was able to certify over 6 million students in various critical areas, like financial literacy, and safer decision-making.

Davidson believes that his success with EverFi comes in part from understanding how to hire the best people to support your start-up. “Ultimately, success comes when you surround yourself with brilliant people who are smarter than you!” says Davidson.

Another quality which stood out for me was Davidson’s unbeatable spirit, belief in his idea and ability to hustle.

Back in 2010, the company was at a crossroads and badly needed money for development. He had maxed out his credit cards, and hadn’t made payroll in two months, but he had the opportunity to pitch his company to new investors. Davidson had to sleep on a hotel couch the night before his pitch. And pitch he did – on that meeting he raised $11M!

When asked whether the investors knew about his dire circumstances, Davidson proudly answers – “Heck no, I was wearing my best suit, and best smile!”

How exactly do you persuade potential investors?

“You show your best performance — you have to come up with something spectacular for your pitch,” believes Davidson.

One final piece of advice was to always work on improving your company. This is the essential part that Davidson attributes to the success of EverFi.

“Success is measured on a weekly basis. Are we a better company today than we were a week ago?”

And what about you and your organization? Are you more capable than a week ago?


Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, creative fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams.

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog ( for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

Check out Andrey’s latest e-book, Reignite Your Thinking: Kickstart Your Career By Using Brains, Intuition and Creativity

Learn how you can raise money through LinkedIn for your start-up in my article – 7 Secrets of LinkedIn Fundraising for Your Startup


Persuasion, Fundraising and Rabbits


Have you ever tried the popular trick of pulling the rabbit out of the hat?

It’s easy.

First you need to get a very small rabbit.

Sometimes these little fellows graze in your backyard. Just catch one.

(Use carrots, lettuce, apples, Brussel sprouts or even apple cider.)

Once you’ve caught one, place this little furry ball in a specially designed black handkerchief.

If you’re wondering why magicians work with rabbits and not cats or dogs, the answer is simple. Rabbits, unlike people, naturally sit still in the dark.

The next step is very important.

When the magician picks up the hat, he also pulls the handkerchief with the rabbit inside and sticks it into the hat.

If you were to see the magician in slow motion, you’d have seen that when the hat is picked up, and in goes the rabbit.

Is that all? Pretty much.

But done very fast, it makes you experience a little wonder.

Rabbits are easy, you say.

Well, how about making a much larger object vanish?

Perhaps, the Statue of Liberty?


How would you conceal it in front of millions of viewers worldwide?

David Copperfield, just did this and awed his audience in 1983.

Do you know how?

If you haven’t yet heard of this famous trick, or think it’s a giant handkerchief that David smartly used, you will find the answer at the end of this article.

Power of Persuasion

Bruce Springsteen states it best in his “Magic”:

“I got a coin in my palm; I can make it disappear,
Got a card up my sleeve, name it and I’ll pull it out your ear,
Got a rabbit in my hat, if you want to come and see,
This is what will be, this is what will be….

I got shackles on my wrist, soon I’ll slip ‘em and be gone,
Put me in a box in your river, I’ll rise up a singing this song,
Trust none of what you hear, even less of what you see—
This is what will be, this is what will be…”

So why are we still attracted to magicians?

People have always wanted to find the secrets of persuasion.

How do you gain the full attention of a fellow human being? What makes another person tick? Doesn’t persuasion give you a sense of power?

How can you develop these skills? And should you even try?

Well, some authors think that the secret lies in developing “an awesome charisma,” and give you 12 ways to project it just right.

Other experts believe that you should use nothing but the six principles of Robert Cialdini’s Influence: reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

Still, there’s something missing in here.

It almost feels like a canned formula for universal success, doesn’t it?

Perhaps, we need to dig a little deeper?

Non-Profit Fundraising: Field-Testing Persuasion

There are millions of worthy non-profits, which are trying to raise just enough to accomplish a multitude of very important social, educational and humanitarian projects.

Each of them is tasked with the challenge of asking other fellow human beings for money. Every single year.

So how do you persuade people to give?

There are a ton of advisors on fundraising.

Some offer Neuromarketing as a new dogma. Apparently there are immutable laws of how your brain works. And you are supposed to use it on your donors, tricking their impulses with proven formulas and set dialogues.

May it work?

I’m sure it may for some.

“I got a coin in my palm…” Grab their attention, they say.

Others believe that you should be making glossy brochures and spilling all your organization’s knowledge into the poor paper, which can stand anything and everything. Then you go and shop around, they say.

“Got a card in my sleeve…”

This is a waste of money, I say. Yet some claim it worked for them.

So what should you do?

There is one sure way to land your first million: approach your individual and major donors.

Talk to them.

Listen to what they’ve got to say. Listen again. And then listen some more.

After that, go ahead and simply ask your donor for help.

You’ll be surprised that you will not need to pull a rabbit from your hat, nor make the Statue of Liberty vanish.

All you have to do is open a channel of human communication. Trust another person. Entrust yourself to this person.

Humans like human touch. They can feel your authenticity. It’s so easy to forget this simple approach in the digital world.

Meet your donors. Listen to them. And ask for help.

That’s when you’ll suddenly realize that you don’t need to persuade anyone.

All you have to do is open up and be human.

And yes, you may let your rabbit out in the wild.

P.S. David Copperfield’s trick was quite simple. And no, people were not mass hypnotized. The trick was in changing the frame of reference. To view his grandiose undertaking, Copperfield placed his audience on a rotating platform. So instead of moving the rabbit, Copperfield decided to literally move all his viewers. It was dark, and the lighting and the magician’s outstanding communication helped to conceal the slow rotation of the platform.

7.5 Top Blogging Secrets in 7 Minutes: How to Write Your Best Blog Post. Ever.


“Hey there… Here’s your tall Americano… Is there something else I can help you with? Hello?”
 The Starbucks barista stares at you. “Are you okay?” she asks with slight concern in her eyes.

Suddenly you’re back.

She has no idea you were thinking about your next LinkedIn Pulse article.

“Ah, yes, thanks! I’m fine. Thanks, I was just thinking. Sorry!”

You know the feeling.

You had your great a-ha moment in the car as you were driving through heavy Monday morning traffic filled with busy moms in their Odysseys and Siennas, driving at 20 miles an hour while talking on their phones.

It’s crazy, but you had no pen in the car.

You’ve got to scribble down that idea. What to do?

Finally you get to that Starbucks. Turning left. Waiting for another flow of traffic. Zoom, you’re there.

And then you’re standing in a long line of thirsty Monday commuters.

You’re still thinking of that perfect, perfect blog post. Dreaming and writing in your head.

When you finally get your coffee, you walk out an autopilot. In the car again, of course, you realize you forgot the pen.

And now you’re late to work.

First thing when you get to the office, you’ll write it down. Right?

Of course, when you finally sit down, the screen’s blank. Zip. Nothing. Black hole!

And there’s nothing coming out of you.

Where was that magnificent idea, you ask?

You know the feeling.

1) A Magic Tool

Why did this happen? You were missing your magic tool, of course.

Mark Twain had 40 or 50 of those.

George Patton learned of its importance in West Point.

George Lucas and Ernest Hemingway loved them too!

Yes, I’m talking about pocket notebooks, and you can read the examples of other 17 famous men who thought that life would be amiss if they didn’t carry them all the time.

And there are plenty of options today. From Moleskins to spiral-bound index cards, you can anchor your idea generation and innovation in those magic pages.

You must buy a notebook. Period.

Then every day starting from tomorrow, write every single idea (crazy, stupid, love) you have in that notepad.

You will never regret it.

Trust me. Or Mark Twain.

2) “One True Sentence”

Next, you look and listen deep inside of you. What is it that you need to share with the world?

There are two quotes from Hemingway on this, and both are applicable to any writer or blogger.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”


“All you have to do is write one true sentence that you know.”

So of course, it’s entirely your choice to bleed or not to bleed, but you need to absolutely look for that “true sentence.”

Follow your gut feeling to discern the truth in you. You’ll know exactly when it comes out.

3) Tune In and Inspire Others

But what if you don’t know what to write about?


Maria Popova, the genius founder of the Brain Pickings, is a great example of a mega-curator of content, and, at the same time, original writer.

As quoted in the New York Times, Popova is “the mastermind of one of the faster growing literary empires on the Internet…and the champion of old-fashioned ideas.”

And how exactly do you inspire others by curating old books and ideas of the past?

Find content that you personally love to read. For me it’s innovation, creativity, social media, and business.

What’s it for you?

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel here. Just collect and share your passionate side with your friends.

In fact, according to Rainmaker.Fm, this is what “American newspapers did 300 years back, that was basically all that they did.”

Add powerful visuals and graphics, be original with your text.

Illustrate it with your thoughts and timely photos.

Check out Popova’s site for some ideas.

As her friend put it, she “somehow tunes in to what would make other people dream, or inspires them in a way that is quite unique.

4) Say it in 7 Minutes

By now, you’ve sweated some bullets and found your message.

You can’t stop this flow of genius and think of yourself as the next Na-Bo-Koff, or Tolstoy, or Fitzgerald…

The sky is the limit, right?

But suddenly you hear…

“Honey, would you mind taking out the trash?”


You know the feeling.

You were in the flow, but now you realize that your time on this Earth is finite.

You are not alone here. (Which is by the way, pretty good!)

That means that you MUST realize that your readers are not alone either. And you MUST respect their time.

Even if you’re the next Stephen King.

So what to do? How do we know where to stop?

Apparently, there are some knowledgeable people out there, who have looked into this and determined that the perfect length of your masterpiece should be no longer than 7 minutes, which translates to about 1,600 words max.

And that’s it.

If you won’t listen to me, you should listen to Anna, a mother of two and the founder of the Ask Anna blog, who claims that you can do 28 exciting things in 7 minutes, including folding a basket of laundry, starting a slow-cooker dinner, dusting a living room, greasing squeaky hinges, preparing oatmeal, and much more…

In other words, you have competition.

So make sure that reading your blog is more exciting than greasing squeaky hinges or folding a basket of laundry!

You know the feeling.

 Engage ‘Em!

Martyn Chamberlin asserts that “if you learn to engage your reader, you won’t need anything else.” Among other engagers and catalysts, you may use your personal story, a pinch of outrageousness, and most importantly, authenticity.

Another blogger, Joel Friedlander,recommends writing something “useful, or entertaining, or educational, or all three.” Or ask your readers’ opinion.

Annie Dillard, the author of The Writing Life, says it best:

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”

I’m sure, you know the feeling.

6) “Watch The First 54 Seconds. That’s All I Ask. You’ll Be Hooked After That, I Swear”

This headline was created by a totally disruptive website called Upworthy, the site that “posts viral videos with terrible headlines.” Yet, according to The Guardian’s article, Upworthy’s 100 most popular posts were viewed and shared more than 380 million times during 2013!

David Ogilvy once said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

According to CopyBlogger, on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.

What if you have no clue how to grab people’s attention? Is all lost?

Jeff Goins makes this task easy by offering 5 easy tricks to write your persuasive headline. He shares this brilliant and simple formula:

Number or Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

How about that?

I love this example that Jeff provides:

“18 Unbelievable Ways You Can Bathe an Elephant Indoors”

What has your best headline been so far?

7) “Saturday Wait, and Sunday Always Comes Too Late”

I’m writing this late Friday night. The kids are already sleeping. I’m listening to Coldplay’s True Love. (By the way, it’s Saturday already. Oops!)

If you were to ask me – when do I post my content?

I’d say, hmm. There’s contradictory advice out there, so why don’t we experiment?

According TrackMaven, Blog posts get more shares on Saturday and Sunday than any other day of the week.

For LinkedIn, BufferSocial suggests avoiding weekends like the plague.

Well, I’m still going to try to publish it today, on Saturday, September 5, 2015, and see what happens with your help.

Go ahead and click those “Like and Comment” buttons (Please do!) I can’t wait to reach one million views.

You know the feeling.

7.5) Bonus Section: Why Bother Writing on LinkedIn?

When a group of Berkley University students asked Haruki Murakami, a bestselling author and practically a literary idol for millions of readers across the globe, about the “aha” moment that started his writing career at age 29, Murakami said it happened when he was watching his favorite baseball team, the Yakult Swallows.

And when Dave Hilton, an American player, hit a double, Murakami felt that wave urging him to write, “On that sunny day drinking beer, I just knew I could write.”

In other words, you should enjoy the process. Having fun while writing is the most important reason to do it.

Secondly, you should make your readers happy. Because reading helps people reduce stress and learn new things.

Finally, I will tell you why I enjoy writing on LinkedIn. Because, without these articles and connections, I’d never have met cool people, social innovators, visionaries, mentors, and 7,000+ inspiring individuals, like you, who share, advise, help and care every single day.

Doesn’t it feel great?

Well, you know the feeling.


7 Secrets of LinkedIn Fundraising for Your Startup


It’s basically your choice – You can easily raise $100 or $1,000,000 via LinkedIn.

Yes, I know, you’d say – I have no time for LinkedIn. I am a startuper, you know. We have to raise gig money here.

One startuper I recently met here in Washington, DC, said it even better – “my time is stretched, man. I’ve got to fly to NYC and the West Coast for rounds of investor meetings. Why in the world would I spend my time on yet more social media? Just can’t do it.”

Are you in a similar position with your startup?

I’m not going to tell you that LinkedIn is the magic solution. It’s not. If you think that these angels you’ll be meeting in Manhattan will like your idea and shovel out a bunch of cash at you, please proceed with your plan.

Instead, this article is for those who want to maximize every opportunity, including the largest professional social media platform in the world.

I’m going to share 7 simple but effective steps that will help you grow your quality connections, approach the right contacts with the right message and get your results relatively fast.


Let’s just say that your startup is the next Uber or Tesla. You’ve got a team ready to move mountains. You have an awesome plan. You have some cool mentors. All in all – you have the alchemy of stars working for you!

You need some $250K to get moving.

Or maybe, you’re on the next cloud, you need to grow and the price is $1M+.


LinkedIn can cover both tasks.

LinkedIn offers a perfect platform to locate your investors, buyers, and mentors. It is great resource of valuable information. It’s a gigantic collaborative data base.

All you have to do is to build a solid base of quality connections, establish your consistent presence, locate right decision-makers and charge with the crisp and focused message.

Step 1. Create Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn via a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

Today every professional knows well – if your LinkedIn page is just a boring resume, you are wasting some valuable real estate. So the first step that I recommend is to polish your LinkedIn profile. If you think that your investor will not check your LinkedIn page, you may be surprised. Today if someone googles your name, a good LinkedIn profile comes the first.

What needs to be on that perfect profile? It’s all very simple.

Start with a great professional picture of yourself.

Then goes your top notch and focused summary. Make it non-trivial. Make it memorable by describing your best qualities. And don’t foget that SEO still works and pepper it with some top key words that may help locate your startup.

Your task is to become unique.

Make sure that your Professional Experience is filled to capacity. Trust me. Or as Matthew Bastian, LinkedIn Researcher says in his blog, LinkedIn users who maximize their professional skills information receive 13 times more clicks! Now that’s powerful!

Not only startupers can miss this. Even Barack Obama had some work to do on his profile – his team had to work hard to do some solid tweaking!

So don’t be negligent there. Spend some quality time to make it perfect.

Step 2. Maximize Your LinkedIn Company Page – Your Startup Should Shine

If you are not going to maximally use your free LinkedIn Company page, then you’ll miss multiple touch points with your investors.

Your first step here should be creating an ideal image of the startup founder/s. Add an engaging story. Spruce it up with the team story. Engage, engage, engage.
Think about what you want your viewers to see first. Find the right angle for your angel.

Make it a gourmet dish for your investors. Offer quality insights, share your early success stories. Don’t forget simple things like your mission and FAQ.

Another great differentiator will be adding some quality pictures of your startup product and your team in action. Make sure that you update your page regularly.

The final piece of that puzzle is to assign someone from your team to work on your fundraising page. This should be a dynamic and regularly updated page. Very important.

Step 3. Be a Startup Bee – Crossbreed Your Network

Do you like bees? Well, even if you don’t, you can learn from these lovely creatures. In particular, if you may want to create quality network, you need to swap your flowers. Spread your net wide – find some unusual connections, go to 3rd level connections, make sure that you add them regularly.

As Malcolm Gladwell asserts in his New Yorker article, crossbreeding of contacts means a simple thing – you need to invite a whole range of contacts who may not be necessarily on the same page with you on various topics, but still brings cool perspectives which help to differentiate your startup.

All you have to do is start with adding 5 new contacts a day. These should not be «frozen» contacts – engage them in your LinkedIn Group, send them quality links and articles, keep them around your orbit. Always ask – how can I help you first?

Step 4. Be Active in LinkedIn Groups

Another effective way to create active interaction and partnership with your various stakeholders is through your LinkedIn Groups. At the beginning, you will need to join at least 20 different groups. However, keep in mind, there’s no sense to be in a group if you’re not planning to be engaged.

Try to share useful links, add some discussion topics, respond to forum discussions. What makes your startup different? How can it help various audiences?

Create a few groups. One focused on attracting investors, another to interest your buyers. You can always use it to channel your product promotion, latest news or success stories. Connect your page with crowdfunding sites that you use.

Step 5. Actively Use LinkedIn Status Updates

The LinkedIn status updates function makes it somewhat similar to Facebook, so it won’t take you long to learn this skill. What you need to work on, though, is sharing professional achievements and news.

To make it an effective tool, I recommend that you post your useful updates and shares 2-3 times a day. Test what content is most popular amongst your audience. Play with some headlines.

I personally follow this template:

1) Motivational Quote

2) Industry News/Article Links

3) Final Quote of the Day.

Don’t forget to like or comment on your focus audience feed.

In terms of publishing your content, Noah Cogan recommends at his blog OkDork, to post it on Tuesdays.

Whatever you do select – try to first test your audience reaction to your content first.

Step 6. Take the Pulse of LinkedIn

When I started using the LinkedIn publishing platform, there were not as many people using it, and my content could hike up almost immediately, as long as it was useful, engaging and spiced with keywords.

For example, my article on how to make your startup a million dollar success quickly got traffic because it was an interview with a successful entrepreneur, had useful advice and an engaging tone.

You can still do this. No need to write LinkedIn War and Peace.

Step 7. Charge! InMail Your Top Prospects

Once you have built a solid presence, your platform is ready to charge. What you need to do is to purchase LinkedIn paid service. LinkedIn InMail makes all the difference in the world. It can help you target your top donors in no time.

Here’s what you need to do to make it super-effective:

a) Thoroughly research your target prospect group. LinkedIn makes it easy. Don’t neglect this important step.

b) Always connect only with decision makers. Don’t try to get mid-level managers or gatekeepers to make a decision. They won’t. Waste of yours and their time.

c) Write crisp brief messages to the point. Short intro. Your offer. Invitation to discuss or provide more information. No more.

d) Don’t get frustrated when you don’t get an answer. Wait for about a week, and then send a polite reminder. This work is not for faint-hearted sensitive types. Persevere. These are busy people, stay on course.

Now a few examples that may inspire you.

When you think that billionaires don’t have time for you, think twice. Or read mystory of connecting with Tony Hsieh via LinkedIn. Yes, he responded.

Another great example happened to Ilya Semin, founder of Datanyze who landed a jackpot deal by writing thoughtful cold email messages. Mind you, he did not use LinkedIn, but the approach was very similar.

Semin collected emails of top managers of several software companies, contacted them with a clear email message to test his and comment on his new product.

According Business Insider, his software represented such a great breakthrough product that not only did Semin receive useful suggestions, he got his future co-investors right there. He later became a co-owner of Datanyze. It gets even cooler, as one of his emails reached Mark Cuban who eventually invested $2M in his company.

I love Ilya’s simple advice:

“if you want advice, ask for money. But if you need money, ask for advice.”


It gets even better.

Frank Hannigan found $200,000 for his startup on LinkedIn! In his interview he shared that it took him just 8 days and 700 cold LinkedIn messages.

All he needed was to find 10 people ready to invest $30,000.

And no, he didn’t have plenty of contacts. His 700 were enough.

As long as you know that your proposal makes sense and you have a brilliant product, you should go ahead and create your «killer» message.

Frank received almost instant replies from so many contacts that he finished his first round within one week! In fact, within 12 months of using LinkedIn superpowers, Frank and his team raised over $500,000.

How do you feel about this approach?

Remember, all you have to do is to follow these 7 steps:

Step 1. Create Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn via a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

Step 2. Maximize Your LinkedIn Company Page – Your Startup Should Shine

Step 3. Be a Startup Bee – Crossbreed Your Network

Step 4. Be Active in LinkedIn Groups

Step 5. Actively Use LinkedIn Status Updates

Step 6. Take the Pulse of LinkedIn

Step 7. Charge! InMail Your Top Prospects

(The original article appeared on Exodus Digital Marketing blog)

Ben Joffe @HAX: “The Lone Genius Myth Doesn’t Work in China”


Ben Joffe, @HAX

The Chinese hardware startup scene is hot. If you are interested in taking your startup to the next level, you may consider Shenzhen, a thriving “Silicon Valley” of hardware in China.

I asked my good friend, Ben Joffe, a serial entrepreneur and Asia strategist, who currently works as General Partner @ HAX, to share his views on the startup environment in China. Here is what he thinks.

1) Is there one city in China that can be truly called the best version of SV?

Each city or region in China has its advantages and drawbacks. Beijing is strong on software. Shenzhen is strong on hardware. In fact, it has more resources than Silicon Valley for going from 0 to 1 to many.

I see 6 components to a thriving startup ecosystem (for more on this theme, check Ben’s interview on Techcrunch):

(1) Market size => the US is still No.1 in terms of GDP.

(2) Capital (early stage to M&A/IPO) => China now has a strong angel scene, there’s also growth capital. However, M&A still weak.

(3) Talent => There are many engineers and entrepreneurs in China, but there’s lack of connection between research and entrepreneurship.

(4) Culture => Entrepreneurship is widely accepted. Failure in good faith is less detrimental than it used to be.

(5) Infrastructure => Web/mobile are good. Better people info now with events, salons, clubs for entrepreneurs and investors. Lacking the legal / accounting for speed and low-cost transactions.

(6) Regulations => Could be better. Faster to register a company, difficult to hire from overseas, though easier than in US. Also problem of “gray” offshore financial vehicles.

2) What are some pros and cons of startuping in China? 

If you’re not Chinese and target China market, it’s very hard. It’s like starting in the US when you don’t speak English and don’t know the culture. If you want to leverage the Shenzhen ecosystem for a global hardware startup, it’s easier than ever.

3) What are the differences between Chinese and European/US startupers? 

China is more competitive, faster, wilder. The scale startups can reach here is bigger than in Europe (think about the recent $100m+ funding rounds)

4) Is there a specific Chinese startup culture?

Yes. It’s now supported by “first generation startup people” who made money with Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, etc.

It’s not as “pay it forward” as Silicon Valley, but here, SV is more the global anomaly than the rule!

5) Is it cool to be an entrepreneur in China these days?

Yes. But my perception is that people are not impressed with “innovation”. They want to see numbers: users, growth and/or revenue.

The “lone genius” myth you find in USA does not seem anywhere as strong in China.

6) You’ve been working for HAX for a few years now. Can you share some success stories and failures?

Too early to tell, as HAX is just 3 years old (a typical exit is 8 years), but:

Success stories:

– A few companies with valuations between $10-$50m: Particle, Makeblock, Yeelink.
– A few spectacular crowdfunded projects: CHIP, the $9 computer and Electroloom, the 3D printer for fabric, Prynt, who turns your smartphone into an instant camera and Kokoon, the smart headphones for sleep. 3 of them raised over $1M on Kickstarter!
– Many more in the making 🙂


– Some founder fights, some delays

7) Why are you doing this all over…again? 

It’s the right place, the right time and the right people!