Dream At the End of the World
“Sorry mom, I’m missing graduation.”
What’s up? If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve one of the amazing people I want to keep in touch over the next three months from the other side of the world. You can subscribe to these posts to hear about building a life and a company in China, and email me with the subject Connect China to get my personal monthly updates. Full story follows & post may be updated occasionally.
China is not the easiest place to love. Tellings of my first visit at age 19 are usually interrupted by “Things must have been so cheap!” or “No drinking age!” Stuff was weird, man. Lots of cranes, people, bad advertising — and opportunity. Few sitting toilets, English speakers, familiar products — or chances to stray from the structured program. Being immersed in a truly alien environment for 6 weeks left me more curious than actually wanting to go back.
I left ambivalent, questioning my initial plans for world domination: now EU-born and American-raised, becoming Asia-based suddenly seemed like a step in a very uncomfortable direction. Back at college in Boston, considering Asia involved telling everyone I was shipping back for the new American Dream — in China.
In hindsight, I wasn’t convincing them, but myself. Social pre-commitment is an awesome motivation hack. I still remember sitting on the bus to Boston from New York the month before my plane to China would be lifting off, scared shitless looking at the blank Word doc that would be my letter of intent to study abroad. But my past self had talked me into it, and off we went.
By 2013, I had spent over a year in Asia spread as north as Beijing, China and as south as Jakarta, Indonesia. I had the best, most productive, most socially connective year of my life in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. I left not ambivalent, but focused on making the most of the momentum. I almost didn’t leave at all. Returning had become a matter of when, not if. Now I know.
Turns out it’s February 21nd, 2014 to Shanghai, China.
Why? In layman’s terms: some friends and I earned a grant to work and learn to transform our idea into a business over the next 3 months. The days will be long and communication may be hard, so I’ll be writing here regularly and very spontaneously emailing/Skyping cool people in during breathing room.
What I expect
- 9-14 hour days talking to customers & building marketing channels.
- Lots of dim sum, this time avoiding the sewer oil (don’t Google it).
- Working with amazing people to become a China consumer & startup guru.
- Returning to San Francisco after May to pour rocket fuel on building something great after refining the idea.
- Not dropping off the face of the early completely to my US/EU-based friends. Australians ok, too.
For the startup-inclined folks
ShopHop, which started off as a shopping itinerary planner during Startup Weekend in Hong Kong, is entering batch 5 of Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai-based accelerator to get a full makeover with a new focus on broader adventure planning drawn from local experts. Part angel fund, part business boot camp, an accelerator has been compared to getting a startup MBA but asks for a piece of equity in exchange for a small round of funding.
What would help?
Mentors: We’d love to send our progress to a select few mentors beyond the program to collect some feedback by email. You know who you are! We’re in the consumer mobile space.
Housing: Know folks in Shanghai? 3 teams are looking to rent large accommodations between March - May 2014, ourselves included.
Customer Interviews: I’d love to talk to many of you as we build. 15 minutes of your time = 1 hour of secondary research. Or more. We’ll be reaching out to help us make ShopHop great.
On-site Developer Talent: Know a wiz on Android/iOS in Shanghai (or China & willing to relocate) looking for opportunities with a funded startup? Let’s talk.
Good Vibes: Send them our way, get some in return. Best from China, folks. <3