Episode 24: Ashley Peng of Xiaobu: When Chinese Millennials Become Parents

GGV Capital’s Hans Tung and Zara Zhang interview Ashley Peng (彭琳琳), the founder and CEO of Xiaobu (小步), a mobile platform for young parents in China with kids aged 0-6 years old. By providing high-quality content and tools, Xiaobu helps their users navigate parenthood, which is a confusing period for many millennial parents. Xiaobu literally means “little steps” in Chinese. On Xiaobu, parents can take courses on parenting, enter a “parenting university”, browse activities to do with their children, and post updates and photos to record their parenting journey. Xiaobu now has over 2 million users and growing fast.

Before starting Xiaobu last year, Ashley worked as a consultant at BCG China for 8 years, and then spent 2 years at Miya (蜜芽宝贝), a leading e-commerce company for mom-and-baby goods in China, where she was the VP of strategy and business assistant to the CEO. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Tsinghua University in journalism and public policy and obtained her MBA from the Stanford GSB in 2011. Xiaobu is a GGV portfolio company.

Ashley how she was inspired to start Xiaobu by her own journey as the mother of a young child, why millennial parents in China need a lot of help, and how she went about designing a product that’s highly engaging to users.


HANS TUNG: Hi there. Welcome to the 996 Podcast, brought to you by GGV Capital. On this show, we interview movers and shakers of China’s tech industry, as well as tech leaders who have a U.S.-China cross-border perspective. My name’s Hans Tung. I am the managing partner at GGV Capital, and have been working at startups and investing in them in both the U.S. and China for the past 20 years.

ZARA ZHANG: My name is Zara Zhang. I’m the investment analyst at GGV Capital and a former journalist. Why is this show called 996? 9-9-6 is the work schedule that many Chinese founders have organically adopted. That is, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

HANS TUNG: To us, 996 captures the intensity, drive, and speed of Chinese Internet companies, many of which are moving faster than even their American counterparts.

ZARA ZHANG: On the show today, we have Ashley Peng or Peng Linlin, the founder and CEO of Xiaobu, a mobile platform for young parents in China with kids aged 0 to 6 years old. By providing high quality content and tools, Xiaobu helps their users navigate parenthood which is a confusing period for many millennial parents. Xiaobu literally means little steps in Chinese. On Xiaobu, parents can take courses on parenting. Enter a parenting university, browse activities to do with their children and post updates and photos to record their parenting journey. Xiaobu now has over 2 million users and is experiencing rapid growth.

HANS TUNG: Before starting Xiaobu last year, Ashley worked as a consultant at BCG China for eight years and then spent two years at Miyabaobei, a leading E-Commerce company for mom and baby goods in China where she was the V.P. of strategy and also business assistant to the CEO. She holds a math bachelors and master’s degree from Tsinghua University in journalism and public policy and also obtained her MBA from Stanford GSB in 2011. Xiaobu is a GGV portfolio company. Our colleague Jenny Lee is the board member.

ZARA ZHANG: Welcome to the show Ashley.

ASHLEY PENG: Hello Zara, hello Hans.

HANS TUNG: Hi. Good to see you here.

ASHLEY PENG: Good to see you.

HANS TUNG: Great. How did you come up with idea for Xiaobu?

ASHLEY PENG: I still remember when Yunbao was two years old, she sat on her high chair and having some food and she just kept throwing her food away and her dad got really angry because he reminded her several times. She just didn’t listen to him at all and eventually her dad yelled at her and threw her into a dark room. And since then, my daughter was afraid of darkness and she always said, she didn’t like her dad. She hated him. She once said. It actually took us several years to correct this mistake not just the fearless part but also the intimacy between her dad and her and actually, I learned a lot in this process.

I think most importantly two lessons. First, both my husband and I, we had two master degrees, from Tsinghua University and Stanford University. So both of us, we received the best education. We are smart but we still know nothing about education. When it comes to like educating our daughter, we are no better than a nanny or our parents.

HANS TUNG: You’re very modest.

ASHLEY PENG: I really think so. Because we make very basic mistakes because we know nothing about parenting. So in that example I mentioned, there are many, many reasons. Because at two, my daughter was at this sensitive period where she was testing the space. She was experiencing the fun of throwing things away, getting control of something but we didn’t know about that. We just didn’t use our adult view to think that she didn’t listen to us. She was annoying but actually there are really many, many things that every parent should learn about parenthood. It’s not natural. It’s not that because you’re smart, you have a very good degree that you should naturally know about these. It’s not. It’s something that you really have to learn.

So this is the first lesson. And the second lesson is that, I actually used many ways to try to bring them back together. I tried to lecture my daughter that you should like your dad. Dad loves you. Things like that. But actually, it didn’t work at all. And eventually the most important tool that eventually helped us is game or the parenting activities that we do together with her.

So when they play together, they actually do things together. My daughter started to notice that, oh, dad can do a lot of things. And dad is so fun. And all these things bring her back to her dad. And actually, it was not that easy because like Chinese people tend to be more serious or rigid.

We are not really very used to outdoor activities or sports or handwork, DIY kind of thing. Yeah. Because when we were raised up, we didn’t have these. And nobody ever taught us this and we do not have that in our genes.

So, we had to learn about these things. And I actually spent a lot of time researching online and learn about things. I love Pinterest. I spend so much time searching all kinds of methods from the foreign website and try to find out the fun way to engage with my kids. And it was not that easy.

So I studied a lot of theories because you have to learn about the theories before you engage with her. And also I collect the ideas and I have to arrange them based on her age, based on her interest and I have to teach my family to do these things because it’s not only my job. I have to teach her dad, I have to teach her nanny and I even taught her grandparents how to use these interesting, fun way to really engage with her and I realized if every parent has to go through this process, it will be like the barrier is too high. But actually, this is very interesting way and I could see it works on children. Not only on my daughter.

Actually, I have some friends like sending their child to my home and we could see them. The children would change like within two or three days if you use the right way to engage with them. They change very fast. And I think all the parents should learn about these things and they don’t have to go through the painful and complicated process that I went through.

So I came up with the idea of Xiaobu that we can create something that let the parents learn about the things very quickly and easily and systematically. So basically, that’s how I came up with the idea of Xiaobu.

ZARA ZHANG: So it’s something that you wish existed when you were a new parent yourself?

ASHLEY PENG: So yeah, when I was new parent, I don’t think there’s anything that existed. I still remember I searched parenting activities with kids of 3 online. I searched on Baidu and I found probably 20 articles and 15 of them are the same. So, basically they were copying each other and the rest five, they gave me about 20 ideas and I tried and I picked. I think there were only about seven or eight ideas that attracted me. Without any picture, no mention to video.

There was no video, no picture. I have to really imagine and try to understand what it means from all the wording and I picked seven and I tried five and I failed three. So there are only two left. So that was the situation when I started the whole thing. And I was so pissed off. I always felt like there’s no real guidance online on how to engage with your kids.

There are many lecturing content and they talk about how you should accompany your kids. You should do fun activities but what fun activities. I just cannot find fun activities because I can quickly understand that I should do fun activities but it took me so long to actually do one. So, I think that’s why I told all my users, my team that actually practicing it is the most difficult part because it’s really easy to understand the concept but actually doing it is the fun and the difficult part.

HANS TUNG: But I thought there are a lot of forums, community sites about how you can raise your kids especially from people in the same community share a lot of information with each other. Also, on the other side, there is Babytree who’ve been around for a long time that has a lot of content on it. Were they not enough for you?

ASHLEY PENG: Not enough. I think the most important thing is that, it’s not systematic. So first of all, the kind of content I mentioned is basically, it was actually almost not existed when Xiaobu started. Actually when I was a new mom, not too much content on the actual doing part. And also even if there was something, it was scattered.

ZARA CHANG: They’re fragmented?

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah, it’s very fragmented. It’s here and there. And you have to do a lot of work to organize them to really make them something that not only you can digest but also you can teach your family. That’s actually very difficult.

ZARA CHANG: So you are a millennial parent yourself. I wonder what are some characteristics of this generation of Millennial parents in China and thus being a millennial parent in China today, is it more difficult than before or is it easier?

ASHLEY PENG: I think one very important characteristic is that, lack of information is not the biggest pain for this generation. But we’re all looking for good information. There is just too much information and actually you don’t have enough time. You have to look for the information very efficiently. I think that’s a very big difference. So in my parents’ generation, there were only about a handful of experts talking about these things and there were just several magazines that you could trust and actually you could get this information and just blindly trust them. But now it’s very different.

I think that’s why the paid for content is really a new trend in China and all these parents, they know there’s so much information out there and they need more systematically, more authoritatively information for them to really follow. And also, they want the good information to be very easy to be digested.

Sometimes we feel that’s a little bit contradictory because normally we would think good information exists for example, in books. These systematic books and maybe courses in school. These are good information but it’s too much. It’s too heavy for these users. So they want the good information but in a very, very efficient way. So that’s how they required the content provider to support them. That’s one thing.

If you ask though whether it’s easier or more challenging to raise a child, I think it’s very difficult to say. Like when I was young, I still remember my mom worked six days a week and the stay-at-home mom didn’t even exist at that time in China and it’s not even possible. So most parents just threw their children to their grandparents.

I still remember when I spent a lot of time at my hometown. So nowadays, definitely, people have more choice. To some degree, they have more free time. Lot of things help them. For example, like we don’t have to cook now. We can order anything. That saves a lot of time. So maybe it’s easier but at the same time, it’s getting more and more challenging. I think my mom actually just did very basic things to me and she understood several basic principles and she did it very well and I grew up but now I think most parents are not joining the trend of like pushing very hard on their children and chasing among like different –

ZARA ZHANG: Like tiger mothers.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah, the tiger mother. I think it’s very difficult for them not to do this because everyone is doing it and everyone is so anxious and the competition is getting more and more fierce. I would say that the most challenging part is just understanding what you really want for your child. And what is really good for them and stick to it.

ZARA ZHANG: Yeah. Instead of just being driven by FOMO or Fear of missing out.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah exactly.

ZARA ZHANG: One term that I frequently see on the Xiaobu app is quality companionship. This is actually kind of opposed to what many Chinese parents are used to do which is to send their children to various classes and activities and camps and hope that these activities will shape their children into who they want them to be. So why do you think quality companionship is so important?

ASHLEY PENG: First, I think everyone with a little bit knowledge in education would know that parenthood is the basis for everything, for all the education and good companionship is the basis for parenthood. If you don’t spend time with your kind, especially spend high quality time with your kid, there’s no way that they trust you, love you and follow your guidance. If that lack of trust and love is missing in the relationship, it’s very, very difficult for you to do anything with your kids. And I think a lot of parents actually didn’t realize how important it is. They always feel like correcting the child at that moment is more important than anything like doing the right thing. The so-called right thing is more important than maintaining a good relationship with your child.

So first, it’s really the fundamental. If you ask any educators or any researchers, they would definitely agree about that. And secondly, I think no one can be better teacher than the parents for children at this age especially for children before school because for children from 0 to 6, they are so different. You know like why almost all the countries require the children to start going to real school at the age of about 6 or 7. No earlier than that because before this age, children develop so differently.

Some children start very strongly at [inaudible 17:32] motion and they developed relatively slowly on fine motor and some children, they are very strong in language skill and some children are capable at cognitive but they’re very different. There’s no standard or no general principles that you can adopt. So at this stage, it really requires parents to really bring up their kids based on your observation, based on your understanding and also based on your knowledge in education.

So, this all comes very naturally with good, high quality companionship. Nobody can ever really substitute this. So it’s so important to teach the parents the correct way to engage with your child. Spending time with your child for about half-an-hour may be more effective than sending them to a school especially those schools with very like commercial driven schools with very limited training teachers.

Actually parents should have the confidence that they can do much better than these so-called teachers. They are not even like serious teachers. They are just like employees hired by a commercial training center and maybe get trained for about 10 days and started to teach your child. I think all the parents should have the confidence and should have the responsibility to really think that you are the best teacher for your child at this stage.

HANS TUNG: Quality companionship is something that’s relatively new in China. It’s a concept that’s popular in developed countries. So, I think the fact that you realize that’s important and want to make that popular in China is very admirable and it makes a lot of sense. But, as you know, most of the Chinese families have dual income parents. So it’s harder for the mom to spend a lot of quality time with their kids. What would be your advice to most families that are in that situation to achieve quality companionship?

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah I think there are two ways. The first is that you really have to find information very efficiently. When I said half-an-hour high quality companionship, actually, the time you should spend is much more than just half-an-hour because you have to think about what you should do with your child.

If you read books, you have to select books for them. If you play games, you have to understand what games you can play with your child although children can initiate a lot of activities and games but if the parents want to be inspiring and want to give new ideas to children, they do have to do their homework. So, actually the time required is much more than the time you spend with your children. And again, that’s why, we do Xiaobu because we want to save time for parents and we want to find these good ideas and the parents can spend very, very limited time.

For example, like every video in Xiaobu is just like one minute. You just spend one minute to learn about it and the activity we select is already based on their age, and even tailor-made for your child based on your feedback. All these things. You have to first do the homework or you find someone to do the homework for you and then you concentrate and you play with your children.

So that’s the first part. And second part, I do think you have to teach your family to do this. This may be not very common in the States but in China, it’s very, very normal. I heard a number. More than 80% of children raised in cities are raised up actually by the grandparents. So, you really, really have to educate the whole family. You have to mobilize and you have to let them study as well. It’s actually very challenging because it’s difficult for the elderlies’ to really get open mind and to start a new approach. But if you really find a very effective way to make them feel, oh, this is fun. This is actually very interesting. This is new and new is good.

That’s actually very, very important. I think again, doing is much more effective than lecturing. This is true to your children and also true to your parents, to the elderlies’. So you have to teach them and let them use scientific and systematic way to engage with your child because you cannot just rely on yourself.

HANS TUNG: So obviously, you have gone through a lot and also accumulated a lot of good knowledge that works for your family and potentially for many others as well. So, how do you think about when you design your product, do you design for the parents, do you design for the grandparents as well. How do you organize your information so that’s easy for parents as yourself who are very hands on to learn about them and how do you get more people to share their experience and content on your platform too?

ASHLEY PENG: When we got started, at first, we adopted a very scientific way because we want this to be first like educationally. I still remember I discussed with professors in Stanford and also very experienced teacher from Gymboree and we discussed a framework. It is very important. That really defines the product and how you organize all the content, all the information. So that’s the first thing and also we are definitely bringing a lot of like mobile internet product design concept because we know that the users want the information quick, easy. They want to share with other people especially with their family and it has to be very easy to operate.

All these things, we combined them together. So, it’s not just a course. It’s more a platform. Xiaobu actually offers both. If we divide the parenthood content into two parts. I think it’s first the theory part where we teach the parents the general principles of doing things and then the activity part where we teach them the concrete things that you can do with your child in different areas.

So these two parts are the two pillars. We also have a free content and a paid content. When you think of the free content, normally, online education company don’t offer any free content because it’s mostly for the paid part but we do offer a lot of free content for many reasons. First, we think the free content really helps the users to understand who we are and what principles we believe and what value we can create for them.

The users who have used our free content have much higher conversion rate than the pure new users. I think that’s actually very important. We also offer actually a very broad selection in the free content part and we offer relatively limited selection of content in the pay part because we think for free part, parents are looking for inspiration. They’re looking for diversities and ideas and there are many ideas out there. We just collect all these ideas and make it easier for them to search.

But for the pay part, we really offer service. It’s not just the content. We really offer a lot of service to help them to really practice it and to really do it and when they come up with questions, we help them to improve. So it’s not just the content. Let me put it this way. If we divide the whole industry into several formats, there are community-based content where people just discuss a lot of things and they discuss the things in a very random way and the information is rich but lack of authoritative and also not very systematic.

Then, there’s like just the content approach where they offer lectures, they offer organized content but they don’t offer service and I think we are at the third stage. I think the most important part is practicing. I keep saying that. Any activities that you do with your children could be very different from your own imagination because you could think this is boring. This looks boring because you’re in a doubt.

You would think throwing things, throwing a plate away is very boring but actually for your children, it could be very, very fun. The actual doing part is very important and that’s why we use a lot of mechanisms and product? 00:28:35] functions to help the parents to actually do things. And this is also a very important feature of the Xiaobu community. I know there are many tools that help the parent to share their photos with their family.

They store their photos and I think most of the people took pictures of their children without a story. They just feel, oh, you look so cute. Let’s take a picture. But if you look back, I think this is especially true for Chinese people. If you look back, if you look at every photo and you can just say, it’s cute, cute, cute, there’s nothing left other than cuteness. But if you do activities with your child and you leave photos, it will be totally different. Every record will tell you a story. And that’s why parents, they really love to write so many words on our platform.

We used to have word limit of 300 words and then we’ll have to lift it to 500 and 1000 and then we completely released and said, no limit. You can write however long you want because some parents really want to remember what happened when they took that picture. So, I think our record is really so different from other like just photo albums. It’s not just another photo album. It’s really a diary. It’s really a full diary of how you accompany your child to grow up.

ZARA ZHANG: Obviously to start any company in China, you need to pick very large market and just to give some background, the early childhood education market in China is actually huge today. So there are 20 million new babies born in China every year. The government is actually encouraging people to have more babies now. Because we’re living in a time where we’re really starting to feel the consequences of the one child policy which has contributed to an aging society.

It’s projected that by 2040, 24% of Chinese population will be aged 65 or older. So the Chinese government has actually reversed the decade long one child policy and it’s pursuing a two child policy now. And it even started handing out subsidies and benefits to persuade people to have a second child. And this is why we at GGV felt like the early childhood education market is worth betting on.

HANS TUNG: But did you go to the Stanford China Economic Forum or Economic Summit two weekends ago.

ASHLEY PENG: I had to say no. Yeah. I had a business trip to Shanghai.

HANS TUNG: It was very difficult to get tickets, I know.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah I know but actually I got the news and I almost got the tickets and I gave up because I had another meeting at Shanghai and I had to go.

HANS TUNG: Too bad. Yeah, I brought over that point because James Liang, chairman of Ctrip is Stanford GSB alumni. He has PhD from Stanford. And he wrote a book on the population policy that China had. He specifically talked about how having only a one child policy makes China an aged society and decrease productivity and base foundation for economic growth. So thanks to some of his efforts, now, China has a two child policy. Are you seeing the impact of that as something that’s positive for your business, do you see Chinese parents these days are more willing to have the second child or do you see they still take some time to adjust for that because the pace of life is still very fast and people are very busy.

ASHLEY PENG: I think it’s definitely good news for the industry because people started to have more kids and when they started to have more kids, they will feel… I think people with one kid are really different from people with several kids.

HANS TUNG: I know we have two and the second one is exponentially more work.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah exactly. So they actually require much more service, much more efficient service and it’s definitely good for the industry. I cannot focus like whether Chinese people would have more or less children. But I think one thing is definitely true that people started to raise the child in more smarter way.

HANS TUNG: Yeah more enlightened, more knowledgeable.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah exactly. I think less and less parents chasing are chasing for the so called just like school results and these days, I think more and more people have a broader view on education. This definitely helps the whole generation.

HANS TUNG: You mentioned the word knowledge. It seems like given the proliferation of mobile commerce in China. Now, 90% of transactions on e-commerce are all done over a smartphone. You can also see that WeChat Pay is extremely popular. People share money with each other and pay each other and so forth. And so given that mobile payments is so big in China, it’s 11 times the size of mobile payment market in the U.S. Do you see that people are now used to paying for knowledge as well and therefore you’re more of a user willing to pay for premium content because it’s so easy and they see the value.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah definitely. Payment is definitely something that enabled them to pay for the knowledge, pay for the continent. I think more importantly, as I mentioned, there is just too much information there and the people started to see the value of selection and see the value of high quality content. So that’s a very good trend for us.

ZARA ZHANG: And you’ve also worked at an e-commerce company Miyabaobei before. How did that experience inform how you’re running Xiaobu today?

ASHLEY PENG: I think in Miya, I really got a chance to observe the young parents. I realized that they are really anxious and they can buy because they are anxious. There are many companies that try to leverage that anxiousness to get them to buy a lot and a lot more, more than they need. However, they trust you because you release their anxiousness, not increase their anxiousness. So, they can buy for once. They can buy under certain kind of stimulation. But eventually they understand who is really helping them.

I think trust is so important in this industry. You are dealing with parents and you really have to remember. This is something eventually that will help your company to grow big, to get into a really bigger vision.

HANS TUNG: You can be called a Haigui or a sea turtle founder who was educated. Part of education was done overseas and then came back to China to start companies after staying in the US. How do you think your experience with GSB and spending time in the U.S. help you to shape your experience as a young parent and therefore as a founder in this early childhood education category?

ASHLEY PENG: First of all, my GSB alumni founded me. So, it’s very important for fundraising.

HANS TUNG: The Stanford VC network is very, very strong.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah. When I had just an idea, I had nothing. I had a team and I had an idea. I had no product at all. They funded me. So, it is very helpful and more importantly, I think being in Stanford is definitely life-changing experience for me. I got a chance to learn how the best education philosophy and method really works. I still remember, I was so surprised. I found even innovation can be taught in Stanford. I didn’t realize this can be taught and taught in such an efficient way. Also, you feel like this encouragement on critical thinking and analytical thinking is so different from the education I received in China.

The whole project-based approach or the conversational-based approach between the professors and the students, all these things really opened my eyes on education. So, when I’m designing courses on Xiaobu now, I tried to adopt these principles or these methods. And I think they are very new to all the Chinese parents. They were new to me and I think they are very new and very welcomed to all the parents in China.

This is really something that could change the Chinese education system. I do think if everybody understands what critical and analytical thinking is and everybody understands why we should encourage children to do projects and why we learn based on things, not based on disciplines. I think they could really help the Chinese educator and the parents.

HANS TUNG: Yeah. We can relate to what you mean. Zara got her undergrad degree from Harvard. I did mine at Stanford and the first time I heard innovation was in one of the class that I took in my junior year in values, technology and science department. I’m curious. You did your undergrad at Tsinghua in China and you then come to Stanford for MBA.

One could argue, we have the best of both worlds. You have the college alumni network from China. That’s very helpful. As well as getting an exposure to western education, the critical thinking that Stanford taught you. So, do you see that as the best combo or are you seeing that more and more families are having their kids from China come to you as earlier even for high school if not for college in the U.S. before one day they may go back to China to work. How do you think what’s the best combination or what’s the best experiences?

ASHLEY PENG: This is actually a very difficult question because I am a parent now and I have to think about my child.

HANS TUNG: That’s why I asked you this. Yes.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah. I had a very difficult decision on whether and when I should send her abroad for studying. Yeah, for sure, I think whether is not a question. I think for her, it’s very important for her to get an international view and experience. At some stage of her life, it’s really eye opening but When is a big question. Because I do think there are some things that cannot be missing if you want to do something in China and I truly believe that the future of China is limited. There are so many opportunities for Chinese.

So if you give up that part, I would say it’s unfortunate or it’s not wise to really give up one of your biggest advantage. So, you really have to learn about all this society work and even it means that you have to follow some of the rules that you don’t fully agree.

For example, my daughter, she just studied her first grade this September.

HANS TUNG: In local school?

ASHLEY PENG: In local school. And she attended a very foreign style, international style kindergarten and she was raised up by me with all kinds of freedom and creativity. And you can imagine now like – in the first week, she was shocked and she was complaining every day. She said, the teacher doesn’t allow us to talk at all when we were walking and they don’t allow me to go to the bathroom before I get the lunch. And why should they have these rules. This is unfair and this is ridiculous. And I do have to explain that in the public school system, there are so many children. There are 800 children in their school for grade 1.

You have to understand why the teachers don’t allow you to go to the playground during class break because there are just too many people.

HANS TUNG: Too difficult to control, that’s right.

ASHLEY PENG: So she has to go through these things so that she understands how does society work. And she would not look at these things like a foreigner. She’s looking at these things as a foreigner now. She feels this is so absurd. I have to really let her experience this. So, that’s why I sent her to a public school and actually many of my friends were very surprised about my decision. But meanwhile, I do think the parents are very important. You have to teach them how to have their own opinion, keep their critical thinking, keep their free mind. At least, I will tell her, it is still right for her to have doubt on these things. So, it’s important that the parents know about things. If the parents just follow what the teacher said, then maybe there will be challenges if they come to the future work or come to the more international environment. But that’s again why the role of the parents is so important. And if you know about these, you can correct them. You can supplement a lot of the other things other than schools. So I do think that very basic education, you should still do it in China despite of all these flaws.

HANS TUNG: So elementary school, you do public school, local school?


HANS TUNG: How about junior high school and high school?

ASHLEY PENG: I don’t know yet because I think for elementary school, the parents make all the decisions and for junior high and high school, the more and more –

HANS TUNG: They become more independent.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah. They are more independent. They can think on their own. I think the thing I will do is, I will expose her to both parts and I will let her make more decisions on her own. So I cannot foresee from now. Maybe she thinks, that’s actually in 10 years. I don’t know what things will change in 10 years. When she started to select the universities and maybe there are many changes in Chinese education system. So, difficult to say.

ZARA ZHANG: Now we’ll move to the last part of the interview which is round of quick fire questions. The first one is, who is the entrepreneur you admire the most and why?

ASHLEY PENG: Jack Ma. Honestly he is – Because I worked in Mia which is e-commerce company. So the closer you get, the more familiar you get into the industry, the more you admire how he is able to build up this whole empire.

HANS TUNG: And made e-commerce popular in China. Without him, e-commerce may take a lot more time to take off in China.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah. And as a founder of a company and who’s managing – I am also managing like 70 people now. And I observed how Miya CEO managed a 1,000 employee company and I think the more I admire Jack that he really built a system that makes the whole thing work on its own culture and really company value not just exists on paper. It really exists in their company and in every people’s mind. I think that’s very challenging. It’s not so easy. When you are doing that, you know how difficult it is.

HANS TUNG: Yeah. Very good point.

ZARA ZHANG: What’s something you read recently that you recommend?

ASHLEY PENG: There’s a book called Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track. It’s written by Russell Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg. It’s a very interesting book on education and how the future education would look like and I think it’s a very interesting book to take a look.

HANS TUNG: Yeah. I’ve heard it’s good. My wife and I have two kids, 10 and 6 years old. It’s a book that she mentioned to me but I haven’t read it yet. So now like you recommend it, I will definitely make sure I read it.

ZARA ZHANG: What do you do for fun?

ASHLEY PENG: I play with my kid for fun.

HANS TUNG: What’s your most favorite activity that you do with your kid?

ASHLEY PENG: Pillow war.

HANS TUNG: Interesting.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah, Pillow War. We have so many ways to play the Pillow War.

ZARA ZHANG: Pillow fight.

ASHLEY PENG: Yeah. Every time we play it, we burst into laughter and it really releases all the anxiety and all the stress and anything. It’s really fun. Everyone should try it.

HANS TUNG: Sounds good. Last question. Are you hiring and are you hiring locally or from Silicon Valley from Stanford?

ASHLEY PENG: Yes, we are always hiring. We are looking for very good talent to help us to grow our business. Especially if you are passionate in education, in helping the families and in mobile internet, so we definitely welcome all the talents to join us.

ZARA ZHANG: And now you’re looking for people with education background and tech background or both?

ASHLEY PENG: I think both.

ZARA ZHANG: So if people are interested, how can they reach you?

ASHLEY PENG: You can search us on WeChat, search the account “xiaobuqinzi and leave a message to us.

ZARA CHANG: Great. Thank you, Ashley.

ASHLEY PENG: Thank you.

HANS TUNG: Thanks for listening to this episode of 996.

ZARA ZHANG: GGV Capital is a multi-stage venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, Shanghai and Beijing. We have been partnering with leading technology entrepreneurs for the past 18 years from seed to pre-IPO with $3.8 billion in capital under management across eight funds. GGV invests in globally minded entrepreneurs in consumer, new retail, social Internet, enterprise cloud and frontier tech.

GGV has invested in over 290 companies with more than 45 companies valued at over $1 billion.

Portfolio companies include Airbnb, Alibaba, Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Domo, Hashicorp, Hellobike, Houzz, Keep, Slack, Square, Toutiao, Wish, Xiaohongshu, YY and others. Find out more at ggvc.com.

We also highly recommend joining our listeners WeChat group and Slack channel, where we regularly share insights, events and job opportunities related to tech in China. Join these groups at 996.ggvc.com/community.

HANS TUNG: I want to tell you about our sister podcast: Founder Real Talk. It is a biweekly show that gets real with founders about the challenges that founders and startup executives face and also how they have grown from tough experience. This show is hosted by my fellow managing partner at GGV Capital, Glenn Solomon out of our Menlo Park office, produced by our colleague Fischer Yan out of San Francisco office.

ZARA ZHANG: Past episodes of the show include Stewart Butterfield from Slack, Sarah Friar from Square and Nate Blecharczyk from Airbnb.

You can take a listen by searching “Founder Real Talk” in any podcast app.

HANS TUNG: If you have any feedback on this podcast, or would like to recommend a guest, please email us at 996@ggvc.com.