Chapter 2: The Star
Innovators' Call to Adventure
Starting Up: How Star Entrepreneurial
Innovators Smell Blood and Meet Market
You may have capital and a talented management team, but if you are fundamentally
in a lousy business, you won't get the kind of results you would in a good business. All
businesses aren't created equal. —William P. Egan, veteran venture capitalist
How the Top Entrepreneurial Innovators
•Sensing Initial Traction
•Choosing Your Birthplace Wisely
•In Branding Your Company, Brevity Is Best
•Problems = Opportunities
•Platform as the Winner
Traits of Entrepreneurial Innovators
•Diversity of Experiences Leads to Critical Thinking
•Recovery from Adversity Builds Strength
•When Opportunity Meets Patriotism
•Nonconformist to Traditions and Parental Expectation in China
•Brutal Honesty—Integrity Is All That Matters
•Maintaining Good Relationships
Sensing Initial Traction
In sniffing out a new market, periodically ask and answer the basic question :
“Does this venture appear to make sense to potential customers?”
Then listen acutely to feedback from the users.
Choosing Your Birthplace Wisely
Choose a birthplace where it is easy to gain traction for your company and where
there is little or no competition.
In Branding Your Company, Brevity Is
A simple, memorable name wins the hearts and minds of customers.
Follow up rapidly on your observations and intuition and watch closely for opportunity.
To the trained eye, innovation opportunities appear frequently in daily life.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Problems = Opportunities
The larger the problem, the greater the opportunity.
What is the unmet need in the sector?
List the top 10 pain points in your industry.
Are there solutions to solve them?
Explore alternative products and strategies.
The best time to do this and expand market share is when the sector is facing a
temporary but solvable challenge.
Turn Threats into Opportunities
The hunters who learn to cope with difficult weather and terrain grow to expect
problems and develop the necessary survival instinct.
Then they're in place to catch the big game when the weather turns sunny and other
hunters are not around.
Platform as the Winner
In a multi-sided market, the platform that connects the players is the winner.
Intermediaries will diminish in influence and user-generated content will be
Traits of Entrepreneurial Innovators
Entrepreneurial innovation as an activity akin to swimming with weights across the
People are enthusiastic and swim furiously at the start but then they probably sink.
Some swim more than others, but almost all end up at the bottom.
But one swimmer will defy all odds and swim all the way across the ocean, watched
by the others.
Entrepreneurial innovators have think ahead to execute Plan B if Plan A does not
work—and most important, they have to persevere through uncertainty and adversity.
Diversity of Experiences Leads to Critical
Bet on innovators who have had a diverse array of experiences and who have shown
the ability to adapt best practices from other industries to improve their operations.
And follow your fascination.
What new idea is fascinating you?
What new possibility has captured your attention?
Recovery from Adversity Builds Strength
The experiences of top Chinese innovators echo Calvin Coolidge's famous remarks:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is
more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius
is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Persistent and patient teams have a higher chance of success. Be a rat, not a guinea
When Opportunity Meets Patriotism
It is not easy to do business in China.
The traits of a successful entrepreneur are courage in venturing into unfamiliar
territory, helpfulness in assisting others (which spills over to customer orientation), and
most important, hard work.
Examine yourself thoroughly: Do you have the right motivation, the right skillset, and
the sense of timing that are essential to an innovator's success
Nonconformist to Traditions and
Parental Expectation in China
Positive results stem from closely aligned interests between national needs and the
right expertise to fulfill these needs.
Innovation can be seen in every sector and spreads virally at a staggering pace in
China if it builds substantial value for end consumers.
An innovator I interviewed explained:
Humility means being honest with yourself and others about your weaknesses.
Humility is recognizing that everyone (even though you disagree with them) has
Humility is entering into interactions to provide value to others.
Humility means being cognizant of other factors which have played a key role in
Humility. Wealth should not be a litmus test.
Entrepreneurs who flaunt or publicly display wealth often face imminent downfall.
Arrogance is often the antithesis of high growth potential.
Brutal Honesty—Integrity Is All That
Maintaining brutal honesty and building relationships on transparency is the simple
but most effective strategy.
Forging connections in a previously unexploited area can sow the seeds of disruptive
Relationships and the ability to see them are the basic building blocks of Chinnovation.
Maintaining Good Relationships
Prioritize relationships over laws.
Build your relationships like a valuable bank account of favors owed and owing, and
remember that people with bigger networks tend to do better.
Manage pivotal relationships to be connected in the right context.