Issue 24 | February 12, 2018

An Idol: Elon Musk
As the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket made headlines across the world, Elon Musk has become an idol for many in China’s tech community. Chinese social media was full of praise and admiration for a “thinker and doer” who dreams big but also gets things done.

Elon Musk on Chinese social media
An article on 36kr, one of China’s most popular tech news site, titled: “We Should Sing Praises to Musk, Shouldn’t Forget the Hardships SpaceX has Endured in the Past.”
Elon Musk Zhihu question
A widely viewed question on Zhihu, China’s Quora: “Why is Elon Musk so strong? How can one be as strong as him?”
Some commentators contrasted Musk to the Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting, founder of the troubled LeEco, who also had ambitious dreams but was unable to turn them into reality.

Another article titled “China Has No Musk” went viral. The article traced the history of Musk’s various ambitious projects and the difficulties he had endured on his journey. “Maybe we can’t all be Musk, but all of us should learn from his internal strength and pursuit of dreams,” the article concluded. Tweet this

A Buzzword: Chūn Yùn (春运)

As Lunar New Year (February 16) approaches, the largest annual human migration in the world—Chun Yun (spring festival travel season)—is underway. An estimated 3 billion trips will be made in a six-week period starting this week as hundreds of millions of Chinese make their way back to their hometowns. The period usually begins 15 days before Lunar New Year and lasts for around 40 days.
A train station in Guangzhou during Chun Yun.
A train station in Guangzhou during Chun Yun.
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in easing the strain on the country’s transportation infrastructure during Chun Yun. In some cities, facial recognition technology is used to speed up the boarding process at train stations. Didi Chuxing (a GGV portfolio company) is providing intercity ride-sharing services for passengers headed in similar directions. Mobile payments and online ticketing apps have become the dominant way to purchase tickets.

Because many popular train routes get sold out within one second, it is sometimes not humanly possible to purchase tickets manually. Many passengers rely on 抢票软件 (qiǎng piào ruǎn jiàor ticket-snatching software) to get their tickets home. Tweet this

A Big Deal: Didi Targets Japan with SoftBank
Didi Chuxing will set up a joint venture with SoftBank to provide ride-hailing and other services for the Japanese taxi industry, which has been largely impervious to Uber’s advances. The two companies said they would begin trial services in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukuoka within the year.

SoftBank is an existing investor in Didi, which raised $4 billion in December at a valuation of around $56 billion, as well as the largest shareholder in Uber. Citing anonymous sources, The Wall Street Journal reported that SoftBank believes Didi is in a better position than Uber in Japan because of the large number of existing Didi users visiting the country.

Didi also demonstrated a self-driving car for the first time this week. Tweet this

A Quote: How Xiaomi Engineered its Comeback
Xiaomi became the third-largest smartphone seller in the world in January according to IDC, and its shipments last quarter represented roughly a 100% year-on-year increase. During a speech last week on Xiaomi’s achievements in 2017, Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, said:

“2017 was Xiaomi’s ‘comeback year.’ Why were we able to realize the comeback? Because we always look at innovation with a telescope, yet look at quality with a microscope.”

In the same speech, Lei Jun also declared that Xiaomi’s next goal is to reclaim its spot as the No. 1 smartphone seller in China within 2.5 years.

Xiaomi top 3 countries
Xiaomi is now one of top three smartphone sellers in Indonesia, Russia, Israel, Ukraine, Singapore, Greece, Czech Republic, Myanmar, and Belarus.

This week also saw the first IPO of a Xiaomi ecosystem company, Huami, which makes wearable devices such as smart watches and bands. Huami went public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “HMI” and raised $110 million. Tweet this

Hans Tung, managing partner of GGV Capital, is an early investor and former board member of Xiaomi.