[We aim to record in TMTpost’s new column Photo Gallery individuals and entrepreneurs in the Internet industry: whether young ambitious entrepreneurs who have just found their place in the world of business, star investors who walk through different venues, programmers who spend hours of time writing codes in front of the computer screen, or Internet operators, geeks, even delivery guys…It is their collective efforts and devotion that constitute the Internet world we live in right now, so their moments are worth recording, and remembering. Photos don’t lie, but they don’ tell the whole truth; photos are free, but they are also full of traps. Therefore we present the images we see, and let you have your own understanding of these individuals.]
After Beijing won the bid of 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese winter sports market boomed and a series of startups were established. Wang Xiaoyuan, also known as Mr. Ball, along with his assistant are part of this current fad. Mr. Ball, aged 37, is pretty good at double board skiing. During the past 12 years as a skier, he has skied in Qizi Peak and Namu Na'ni Peak in Tibet, Muztagh Ata in Xinjiang, and other major high-altitude snow mountains in Iran, South Korea, Japan and Canada, etc. He even championed the China Mountain Skiing Tournament once.
“100 kilometers per hour might be no big deal when you are driving, a bit too fast when you are riding a motorcycle, but it could be really exciting to ski down the mountain at this speed, since you are fully exposed to the open air and you gain speed purely through gravitational acceleration,” Mr. Ball, a super fan of skiing, described to me the great excitement skiing could bring to him. However, he started his own company in the business not because he loved skiing, but because he saw great opportunities and potentials here.
This is exactly why Mr. Ball started his own business in the mobile Internet era, and this is exactly what we aim to record in Photo Gallery 006: the hard transition for Mr. Ball from a skier to an entrepreneur.
December, 12th, 2015. A ski resort at Shunyi District, Beijing. Mr. Ball started to ski in 2003 when he just graduated from the university. Since then, he has changed his jobs several times: from a mediator at an overseas education agency to an Internet editor at iFeng.com, from an Internet product manager at Cheetah Networks to market specialist at Baidu. In 2006, Mr. Ball took the opportunity as an interpreter for a couple of Austrian skiers and lived at a ski resort for two months. While those Austrians skied every day, Mr. Ball also took the opportunity to learn from them. It turned out that his skills improved a lot since then.
Mr. Ball started to consider starting his own company in March, 2015. “On the one hand, Chinese consumers have become accustomed to mobile payment; on the other hand, related infrastructure is going to be improved a lot due to the 2022 Winter Olympics. In a word, the time is ripe for me to do something,” Mr. Ball explained. He started his project in March and successfully received angel capital from LeTV Sports in July. That’s when he rented a factory around Anhua Bridge area as office and gathered his team.
December 9th, 2015. Mr. Ball was playing skateboard in his office. Besides skiing, Mr. Ball loved going kayaking and trail running. Although he had more resources and contacts in other outdoor activities, he chose skiing as the focus of his future career since he was more familiar with skiing. “I know skiing better. While many consumers will split the bill or seek for free-of-charge opportunities when it comes to outdoor activities, they are willing to spend money in skiing, so there is huge business potential out there,” said he.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Ball was the Internet ID Wang Xaioyuan used when he started doing outdoor activities. Now however, every partner, colleague and friends would refer to him as Mr. Ball.
Employees in his marketing and managing team were all from the winter sports circle. When winter comes, every one of them would go to the ski resort at weekends. “I am under pressure to find competent employees: since it could be really hard to turn people who are good at Internet product management into ski-lovers, I am left to find skiers who are also good at Internet product management.”
Mr. Ball’s friends, however, were mostly from the outdoor activities circle. After he successfully attracted investment, many of his friends would turn to him for advice. As a matter of fact, he even rented the second floor of his three-storey office building to one of his friends who was working on a mobile product for running.
Mr. Ball was teaching his colleagues how to ski. Although many people would ask him to teach them, he was so busy right now and actually had no time for teaching the stuff at all.
A colleague of Mr. Ball went home on a skateboard after work.
Mr. Ball poked his head into a bag, one of the sideline products his team made to prepare for an offline activity. He believed that there were still huge growth potential in the skiing market, and the online services market and offline ski resorts market were both far from developed. Online purchasing, social networking, teaching & learning and news briefing, etc. were all part of the services Ski Assistant app aimed to provide.
On December 12th, 2015, Mr. Ball’s team held a parent-child activity in Shunyi District. Before he started his own business, Mr. Ball would devoted himself fully to skiing at weekends as long as in winter. After launching the company, however, he’s got less time skiing. Even if he went to the ski resort, he didn’t have the opportunity to go skiing except when he was supposed to shoot a teaching video.
Mr. Ball wanted to promote his app offline more effectively, so he cooperated with snow resorts and sports stadiums where his target users frequented most.
Some employees took the opportunity and skied for fun. “Since good-looking girls preferred single board skiing, it will be easier to make girlfriends when you are good at it,” Mr. Ball explained, jokingly, why many skiers preferred to learn single board skiing. Although Mr. Ball couldn’t ski that well on single boards, he was “one of the top 1% skiers in China”, as he told me with pride.
Mr. Ball was taking a picture with a kid who participated in that day’s activity. The kid was bored with primary level skiing lanes and wanted to try skiing on higher-level lanes.
Mr. Ball rented two more stores. According to him, Skiing Assistant already had over 12 offline stores around both ski resorts and business centers. These offline stores can not only diversify its cash flow but also add to its online traffic.
Mr. Ball admitted that infrastructures in ski resorts had improved significantly compared to the time he started skiing. “At that time, the industry developed on itself, but as Beijing and Zhangjiakou are going to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics, media, government and real estate might all focus more attention on the industry, which could a great opportunity for the entire industry to develop further,” said him.
Since he stayed up too late last night, he got so exhausted on the way from the ski resort back to home that he had a rest in his car before be continued. Mr. Ball preferred to make himself feel comfortable, and would few get too exhausted from work.
After starting his own business, Mr. Ball’s schedule was always full. He told us that he still didn’t adapt himself to leading a startup. He used to lead some Internet company, but he didn’t feel so exhausted at that time since his team was highly-experienced and their business model was clearer. This time, however, he’d have to start from the very beginning and figure out his business model gradually. The good thing is that he’s already trying his best to adapt to the new environment and new responsibilities.
TMTpost Photo Gallery
Special column of TMTpost
Aiming to record individuals and entrepreneurs in the Internet industry
Photos don’t lie, but they don’ tell the whole truth
Photos are free, but also full of traps
This is an Internet age, and we want you to discover stories with us online
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @fliesslaughterhouse, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at ECHO), working for TMTpost.