I’m always really excited by the opportunities in China.
That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be underestimated, but I think there’s such incredible energy, dynamism, passion, and growth in entrepreneurship in China that it’s an exciting place.
You’re always meeting people. You’re always talking business. Sometimes personal and professional life overlap. You might talk business with friends in the evening.
I think the Chinese are very pragmatic. If they see a business opportunity and it makes sense, they will be interested and work with you on it.
The key is to not underestimate how difficult this market is.
It’s changing very quickly.
Even when I go back to the U.S. or the UK for a few months, I feel like my finger is not on the pulse as much as when I’m here on-the-ground.
I suggest to focus on a city at first. China is huge. You wouldn’t just look at the U.S. and think ‘I’ve cracked Washington so I’m done’, or ‘I’ve cracked Austin so that’s it.' It’s the same in China.
Also, hone in. Maybe start in Beijing, develop your network, get as many contacts as you can, then expand slowly beyond that.
Putting in your time and effort are key.
People talk a lot about guanxi and connections, but it’s not quite as simple as meeting someone, buying them dinner and then you’re best friends.
It’s actually a genuine, long-term relationship that needs to be developed over time. There needs to be trust, some form of loyalty, and then that relationship can be really strong.
But it’s not about a few dinners and because they’re giving you something, being quite nice, that things are going to be long-lasting.
It’s a lot more complex than that.
I’ve seen so many Westerners coming over and thinking they’ve got great contacts, a great product, and the opportunity in China is so big and vast, that they’re definitely going to make money here.
95% of them don't quite make it.
So don’t ever underestimate how complex the country is, how much time and energy are required, but at the same time how great the opportunity can be.
Daniel Nivern is Co-Founder of CRCC Asia