[TMTpost’s new column Photo Gallery aims to record 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.]
In the Chinese loudspeakers industry, Zeng Dejun must be one the most veteran loudspeaker makers. Mr. Zeng grew up in the remote mountain village in Western Hunan province. He was one of the educated youths who went and worked in the countryside and mountain areas and one of the witness to the ten-year-long Cultural Revolution. He was even enlisted in The Second Artillery Force of the PLA for a while. Later on, he focused his attention on scientific research and education in military schools, and then left the army system and started his own business far away in Shenzhen. However, he has been making loudspeakers for over 30 years, during which time he has designed over 100 products. He was even referred to as “the father of tube amplifiers” in China. Recently, he rose to fame with the crowdfunding activity he launched over his handmade MaoKing Radio, which was a masterpiece and set new record in the industry.
For quite a few years, Mr. Zeng has been working 16 hours a day and 7 days a week. Although he was already 59 years old, he could still stay up to midnight and look energetic the next day. “Since I’m working on something I really like, it’s natural that I am full of energy,” explained him. At present, he was gradually adapting himself to the Internet industry, as he would say: “What I really want to do is develop a world-famous loudspeaker brand in the Internet era, and I’ve already seen a ray of hope.”
Photo Gallery 005 is about the work and life of him from November 30th to December 5th.
Mr. Zeng has a very happy family to support him. His wife will make breakfast of different kinds every day. “I enjoy making a big dinner for my beloved husband, so that he could absorb enough nutrition for a day’s work,”his wife said, “my mother used to do so when I was a kid.”
Although Mr. Zeng’s house is packed with all kinds of power amplifiers, radios and loudspeakers, they are arranged in order. “Our house is full of his stuffs and he would bring back radios oftentimes, making the deliveryman believe that we might be running a shop on Taobao or something,” his wife complained, though laughingly. As a matter of fact, he loved those stuffs he brought back home, saying that “things he brought back home must be not bad.” Although Mr. Zeng spent quite a sum of money buying and making radios these years, her wife supported him a great deal, saying that “I’ll do everything I can to support him.”
The oldest stuff in their house is a wax cylinder phonograph he bought from a town in West America for over 1000 USD. The phonograph was made in 1893, but can still function even till now.
To some degree, radios have become his mascot and have witnessed every major change in his life. He began to become curious about the outside world when he saw a radio in a veteran red army soldier’s house at the age of 7. When he grew up to 14, he and his sister finally saved enough money to buy a radio of their own. After he fixed his commander’s radio, his life encounter another major change. Mr. Zeng keeps the radio he bought at 14 till today and puts it in a place where he can easily it see. It is this radio that strengthen his interests towards science and technology.
Mr. Zeng’s office at the Science Park of Nanshan District, Shenzhen. In the above picture, he was turning on the MaoKing Bigger radio he designed and made himself. Those audio devices on his shelf are almost made all by himself. Turning on the music is the first he would do the time he goes back home or goes to his office. He will even bring with himself a portable loudspeaker on business trips. Music has become an indispensable part of his life, as he would say: “Music can purify my heart, help me forget my troubles, keep focused and get devoted to inventing things.”
Mr. Zeng was delivering a lecture to designers of his partners. “Although they are expert in designing, they are not familiar with loudspeakers. Since I have rich experience in making radios, I should be communicating with them as much as possible to help them design better products.”
“I do respect their ideas, but I also have to get my ideas across to them, so that they can understand what I want most and design accordingly. Good designs are the result of constant communications and interactions. They are not at all the simple combination, but rather the seamless blend of our ideas,” Mr. Zeng explained.
To design products that fit into different user scenarios, Mr. Zeng specially makes room for a children’ room, a kitchen, a dining room and a study in his company.
A journalist from a Shenzhen-based newspaper was conducting an interview towards Mr. Zeng in his study and also his own office. Mr. Zeng believes that innovation can only be brought about in an easy environment, so his room must create a homey atmosphere. After the interview was released, the picture of his office became so popular on the Internet. Mr. Zeng felt okay with that, saying that: “I won’t decline anyone who wants my WeChat ID and phone number and will respond to every customer’s question on e-retailers and crowdfunding platform. I always keep a humble mind when interacting with my customers.” For Mr. Zeng, it’s essential to have an open, inclusive mind and treat everybody equally. Only then can we better face fame and fortune.
Although many partners or insiders would turn to Mr. Zeng for help, he seldom declines their request as long as he thinks they are really in need or they are devoted to what they are doing. “I seldom decline others as long as they need my help.”
Many visitors will be attracted to machines and products on this shelf: from wax cylinder phonographs to his own handmade products, and from Motorola to iPhone. According to him, these devices keep reminding him that he shouldn’t keep his products to himself and design products from a larger perspective, as did Steve Jobs.
Mr. Zeng becomes very serious every time he is inspecting products. In the above picture, he got pretty angry when he found that the trial product dirty and imperfect in some details. “Although this model function well, you have to go back and improve on these details. Its’ a matter of attitudes,” he warned the factory guy.
Generally, Mr. Zeng walks back home after work. The 4-kilometer walk can be pretty good exercise for him, especially when he also has a big bag on his back. “For the past six years, I walked back home every day after work with this bag. That might help explain why I am still in good health.”
Mr. Zeng can eat a quite delicious supper his wife prepares when he finally comes back home. Although he encountered many difficulties in his work, he got along well with his wife for the past thirty years. By the way, his wife was employed in the music software industry, while his daughter works for Tencent. “Every member of my family is doing their fair part of job: our daughter is very lovely, and my husband is working on his career and supporting our family, while I shall also take on my responsibility and take good care of him,” his wife said.
Mr. Zeng’s family lives a house he bought in 2004 in Nanshan District. The couple cut down the kitchen to make room for a larger study. His wife is good at cooking, and also quite hospitable. So their daughter will often invite her friends and besties for dinner. Since many of them would ask me to teach them when I’m cooking in our tiny kitchen, Mr. Zeng put up a notice at the door of the kitchen so that the kitchen won’t get too crowded when I’m cooking.
On the evening of December 3rd, Mr. Zeng was invited to share his experiences in a WeChat Group. Since he started the crowdfunding campaign over Mao King at the beginning of 2015, he has often been invited to do such things. He would accept their invitation and carefully prepare the necessary material as long as the organizers are fully devoted to their cause.
Mr. Zeng was holding a trophy he received recently. As a matter of fact, he has been awarded for quite a few prizes these years, including four CES’s prizes. When he was attending CES’s annual award ceremony on November 10th, 2015, he was also informed to receive an Innovation Award in New York. However, he declined the offer, since he saw no sense receiving too many rewards. “Prizes are merely the recognition of one’s achievement, and nothing else,” said him. Although many organizers turned to him and asked to “support” him using their brand, he declined all their offers, believing that what really matters is the trust of his customers.
Since he went to Shenzhen to start his own business in 1992, Mr. Zeng has encountered many difficulties: his then partner cheated him and left the company with all the money, his technologies were also stolen by others many times, and his factory almost went bankrupt during the 2008 financial crisis. However, even in his toughest time when he didn’t pay the salary for 18 months, 10 core members of his team didn’t leave him. As a matter of fact, 8 out of these 10 core members have been working with him for more than ten years. “If anyone of them sued me for not paying his salary, then my factory would have gone bankrupt,” he recalled. When his factory began to earn money once again in 2014, Mr. Zeng decided to give out 35% of his shares to these 10 core members.
At that time, Mr. Zeng was forced to put his own money and even borrow money from loan sharks to pay his employees. However, he never lost faith in himself. According to him, Entrepreneurs who easily give up will never succeed. Nobody shall sympathize with you no matter how difficult you are. What really matters is to learn from these lessons when you are still young.
MaoKing radios are exactly made by his own factory. In the above picture, Mr. Zeng had less than one day to manage the factory. Every time he comes to the factory, he is talking about the product and design.
Mr. Zeng has a workshop of his own in the factory. He preferred to work here compared to a more advanced workshop with all kinds of complicated machines. This is also the very place he design the first generation of MaoKing radio. Some of his handmade products, including tube amplifiers, radios and loudspeakers, in earlier years can also be seen here.
In November, Mr. Zeng launched a “craftsman project” in hopes of supporting other craftsmen with 25% of the money he raised on JD’s crowdfunding platform. Mr. Zeng even designed a MaoKing Mini as the special gift for this project.
On December 4th, Mr. Zeng was invited to share his stories in the JD Smart milk tea shop at Software Industrial Base of Shenzhen Science Park. He prepared some gifts for the audience to encourage them to raise more questions, and even set up a lottery for the audience after the activity ended. “Young people love interactions and fun,” he explained.
Mr. Zeng became really excited every time he came to the Software Industrial Base. “On seeing these young people, I myself also get excited and passionate, because my heart is burning deep inside. These young people can charge me with renewed energy.”
After the activity, he was surrounded by many young people asking for his phone numbers, WeChat ID, or asking for help. He responded to them very carefully every time. One thing to mention, Mr. Zeng will break the ice every time he added a new friend on WeChat. “I never make too much of myself, so I’m polite and active because I need their support and trust. My reputation is acquired through a good handling of everyday details.”
Mr. Zeng also had to attend many interviews. From October 30th to December 5th, he received interviews from 7 media agencies in total, from CRI to less-known we media. “Journalists ask to interview me because they respect and need me, so I shouldn’t make too much of myself and get too choosy,” said he.
Although Mr. had already raised A-round financing, he didn’t bother to buy a car of his own. For him, driving cars can be extremely inefficient sometimes, so he will just take the subway or hail cars via ride-sharing apps when he needs to go outside, which is less expensive and more efficient according to him.
Although he was already 59 years old, he could still stay up to midnight and look energetic the next day. “Even young people might not be as energetic as me. Since I’m working on something I really like, it’s natural that I am full of energy, otherwise work will be like torture,” said him.
As long as he don’t have to accompany visitors, he will choose to eat takeaway food along with his colleagues. “It saves a lot of time,” he thinks.
He lives a life as simple as possible. A vest and a pair of green army pants are pretty much what he would wear every day. Actually, he’s got six same vest, because he finds it easier to take things along with him with a vest.
Mr. Zeng’s A-round financing finished during the first half of the year, but many investors have been coming for him for B-round financing. In his opinion, investors must first of all recognize the importance of his work, and secondly have resources we need very much and at last willing to invest in us. Mr. Zeng even declined an investor who promised to get his company listed within a year, believing that: “Things will come naturally, so when time is ripe, we’ll list anyway.”
Mr. Zeng foresaw what’s going to happen as early as 2006, so he started to study streaming music media. At present, he’s already owned several relevant patents and governing the establishment of a set of national standard for smart audio devices. “We are never going to raise 26 million RMB since we are making hardware. It is essential to look things from a larger picture and know a little bit about software, hardware, core thinking and system,” Mr. Zeng said. With such a system, he will be able to help people control several audio devices at the same time. “I am good at connecting people and devices, people and music through not only loudspeakers but also smart devices. This app has already been developed and is to be released near Labor’s Day in 2016,” said he.
Mr. Zeng was negotiating with his colleagues. His goal is to develop a world-famous audio brand in the Internet era. He even planned to set up an American and German brand at next step. “I’m proud of my products, so I am very confident. Without international thinking, ambition, no international brand can be built. So my goa is to always go a step further,” he added.
He was travelling everywhere for almost one third of the year. He can’t stop, and won’t stop, since he’s working on something he really loves and is going to spend the rest of his life doing it.
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
(Like our Facebook page and follow us now on Twitter @tmtpostenglish and on Medium @TMTpost.)
[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.