Follow Up Stories Of The Post-90s Star Entrepreneurs
摘要： In early February this year, Yin Sang, founder of LOHAS, released an official statement saying that LOHAS might be aborted due to its inability to find investment. This young entrepreneur who received investment from IDG two years ago once again becomes the center of public attention, inevitably raising doubts among people about the follow-up stories of all those post-90s star entrepreneurs.
Editor's Note: On August 14th 2014, IDG Capital Partners announced to establish IDG Post-90s Foundation with a scale of USD 100 million to support entrepreneurs born in the 90s who focus on areas around the demands of the young generation. Within these short two years, Li Feng who started the foundation at IDG has left IDG and founded his own capital company. Many inevitably start to wonder how those star post-90s entrepreneurs backed by IDG have turned out. TMTpost therefore conducted this exclusive report, aiming to get a glimpse of their current life in this rapidly changing world.
MYOTee’s Guo Lie, F.N.T’s Zhang Tianyi, Ripple Labs’ Sun Yuchen, and LOHAS’s Yin Sang were the four star entrepreneurs that had been highly praised and supported by IDG in 2014. IDG’s founding partner Li Feng back then was making use of IDG’s brand name and his personal influence to help them succeed and gain momentum.
LOHAS was the first investment project that Li Feng led in 2012 from the hands of a post-90s entrepreneur. By the end of 2014, LOHAS received its third round of financing from IDG. However, in early February this year, Yin Sang announced in his statement that LOHAS failed to find new financing and now faces abortion.
The crashing LOHAS reminds us of those star entrepreneurs two years agao, raising doubts among people about the follow-up stories of all those post-90s star entrepreneurs. What kind of impact will the exit of Li Feng have on IDG and his star entrepreneurs?
In August 2014, IDG invested in multiple startup projects run by post-90s entrepreneurs. IDG’s founding partner Xiong Xiaoge believed that the era for post-90s entrepreneurs had come and that investing and supporting them would get them an edge in future development. Thus, IDG established IDG Post-90s Foundation with a fund scale of USD 100 million, aiming to support entrepreneurs born in the 90s who focus on areas around the demands of the young generation.
An insider who’s familiar with IDG’s investment framework revealed to TMTpost that this foundation has by far supported at least 28 projects, but it’s unknown how much of the fund is left. Our journalists at TMTpost have contacted investors at IDG before but none of them has confirmed anything.
As a matter of fact, when IDG first founded this post-90s foundation, IDG even counted entrepreneurs born during 1988 to 1990 in and preferred startup projects focused on emerging fields and consuming upgrade. An anonymous source from IDG told TMTpost that this foundation wasn’t actually led by Li Feng, who’s only a member of a 6-people team. The source explained that Li Feng was more comfortable with publicity events and therefore media and the public might tend to think he’s the representative of the foundation.
When talked about the investment shortage that LOHAS faces and the reason for not investing again, the source from IDG stated that LOHAS’s project was led by Li Feng, and since Li Feng has left IDG and founded FreesFund, IDG will consider the previous project leader’s suggestion and give him more say in whether to invest again according to IDG’s tradition.
Li Feng is not the only case. Zhang Zhen, Gao Xiang, and Yue Bin have also left IDG and started Banyan Fund where they share similar traditions mentioned above.
Additionally, LOHAS will not just go out of business directly, but might have to lay off some staff due to the issues caused by its operation fund management, according to the source.
Zhang Tianyi, founder of F.N.T, one of the angel investment projects of IDG, has commented on this matter. He believes that the business world is fair and just to everyone, and that hardships are inevitable in entrepreneurial journey. “Whether it’s entrepreneurs born in the 70s or the 90s, they all face challenges,” Zhang said. “It’s unnecessary to perceive their success or failure in business according to their age label.”
In contrast to LOHAS, F.N.T has completed its A round and A+ round of financing last year in May and December, gaining a total financing of RMB 30 million. However, these latest two rounds of financing didn’t involve IDG. Zhang revealed that during the A+ round of financing last year Li Feng’s FreesFund intended to invest in them, but since the deal had already been sealed the potential cooperation with Li Feng couldn’t happen.
In fact, compared with P2P and O2O startup projects, F.N.T’s business is simple. What F.N.T does is focus on the rice noodle community.
Communities can bring profits and generate business opportunities and that’s what F.N.T is working on for its profit model. Statistics show that through its official account on WeChat, F.N.T has published over 300,000 words’ content and held several press conferences in 2015 online, including its two rounds of financing. Industry insiders commented that F.N.T’s online community model is following Luogic Show’s path.
The operation of community has made progress. During last year’s Double Eleven Shopping Festival, F.N.T launched its box-packed rice noodles on JD Crowdfunding, utilizing community effect to amass fund. In the end F.N.T was able to get 500 thousand RMB and later entered the field of food e-commerce, forming a business model that combines online and offline businesses that covers more business scenes.
“Last year we received two funds. The first thought that came to our mind was that we need to expand fast. But when we found every chain store was already profiting, we decided to put our heart on the profit rate,” Zhang told TMTpost. “Our goal this year is open 15 more stores and achieve profiting by Q4 in e-commerce.”
Sun Yuchen’s Ribble Tech was recommended by IDG’s headquarter at the U.S. Ribble Tech received an investment of over ten million dollars in 2014, contributed by IDG. The Ribble Tech’s main business back then was Ripple Labs. Ripple is an Internet protocol that’s used for financial trade. It aims to allow different currencies to be transferred freely without delay for free, which will create a decentralized payment system empowered by the value network.
However, Ripple Labs is no longer the priority nowadays. Ribble Tech is focusing on an audio social app called Peiwo. Peiwo is an anonymous audio chat app, on which users will be matched to strangers to chat anonymously. The chat will be only 3 minutes long for free and if both sides “like” each other they can unlock the unlimited time chat. Besides that, users can also use the chat function that charges users 0.1 to 9.9 RMB per minute, through which users can charge other users and make money by just chatting with them.
Peiwo was originally developed by TongdaoDashu but later was acquired by Ribble Tech, who developed the latest updates and contents. Currently TongdaoDashu is Peiwo's cofounder and product consultant. It’s reported that Peiwo has received an investment of 60 million RMB during its A round of financing led by China Equity and followed by IDG, TI Holding, Zhongke Capital and Trends Group.
What people don't understand is that how come Ripple Labs, a product with great potential, would suddenly lose competitiveness.
“Ripple targets the To B market, and therefore its property decides that it needs to cooperate with financial organizations such as banks,” Sun Yuchen explained. “However, it generally takes a long span for financial organizations to understand and apply distributed liquidation technology. In contrast to that, social products that target the To C market do not have such problems. For that they can amass users fast.”
According to Sun Yuchen, Peiwo’s main audience is the student groups born in the 90s. Peiwo by far has about 4 million users and its peak running time is from 10 PM to 2 AM.
When talking about his future plan for Peiwo, Sun said he expected Peiwo to become a social app with transaction flow and profit. However, whether it’s WeChat or MoMo, they cash in through commercials, gaming and extra features. But Peiwo’s income source is the commission from the money earned by users.
As the first group of students at the Hupan University founded by Jack Ma, Feng Lun, and other six entrepreneurs and scholars, Sun Yuchen told our journalist at TMTpost about some of the speech Jack Ma made at the Hupan University.
“The sooner you start on your entrepreneurial journey the better, since every entrepreneur faces hardship. The earlier you start the sooner you encounter the obstacles, which means you can tackle them earlier and achieve success. After all, entrepreneurial journey is a process that's all about time.”
Sun Yuchen told TMTpost that some students asked Jack Ma a question in the first class: Is the Jack Ma in 2015 different from the one in 1999? And how will he comment on his 16-year-long journey?
“The biggest feeling I have from these 16 years is that the pain and stress an entrepreneur experiences will worsen as his or her company grows further. When your company is valued at USD 1 million, you feel the pressure of USD 1 million. When your company is valued at USD 100 million, you bear the pressure from the USD 100 million. Now Alibaba is valued at USD 200 billion, for that I constantly feel the pressure of that level. Entrepreneurs have to make more and tougher decisions as their businesses go big.”
“Some entrepreneurs I know often complained about the difficulties they faced during their early stage of entrepreneurship.” Sun Yuchen joked. “Some worried about the company’s scale, while some worried about the fund. But Jack Ma told us the opposite side of the story, that is in the future it’s going to be a lot harder. In this case, it’s essential to teach young entrepreneurs this reality.”
Jack Ma also stated that not everyone is fit for entrepreneurship. Only those who have the talent can pull it off. In this case, faking it won’t get you far. People who want to use one or two years to achieve financial independence through entrepreneurship should just quit for the fact that people that are indeed fit for this road will spend their lifetime making their business work.
In fact, in 1999 Jack Ma had alreaduy foreseen the layout of the retail industry and e-commerce in 2015, according to Sun. “A true entrepreneur must have a clear strategic plan for the company. He or she must be able to see through the current world and predict the future trend and layout. If so, the outside world would not be able to disrupt your decision or perception,” said Jack Ma.
Jack Ma also mentioned that Aibaba’s next target field is cloud computing. Alibaba aims to enter the DT era from IT era and become the future fundamental service provider for the public. Its ultimate goal is become a company that provides fundamental Internet infrastructures.
Similar to Sun, Guo Lie was able to develop a video social app that’s as popular as MYOTee, Faceu. Faceu’s biggest feature is it adds ACG and social elements into videos. Not long ago, NanQiDao,writer at TMTpost interviewed Guo Lie’ team, and wrote the article MYOTee’s Creater Has Rolled Out Another Hit Product, Faceu, explaining the logic behind Faceu and listing out expectations for Faceu.
However, after topping the chart on App Store, Faceu subsequently faced continuous criticisms. Articles such as Will Faceu Be The Next One Hit Wonder and Facau Is Born To Die directly hit Faceu. These criticisms as a matter do have their grounds. And staying popular is exactly the top priority for Guo Lie’s team now.
It's not hard to tell that those post-90s star entrepreneurs once backed by IDG are more or less trying to transform themselves no matter they are in trouble or trying to enter a new entrepreneurial path. As they become more seasoned and experienced in the business world, the post-90s label on them is gradually fading. Even Li Feng who started the foundation that invested in them has already started his own company.
It’s apparent that for entrepreneurs and investors, whether it’s friends or business partners, they all have their own path to go. Media and the public’s comment is not going to stop them from doing what they want to do, since they have their own view and belief. Public comment is just a weak tyrant that tries to control them. The way one sees himself has already determined the future path.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Song Changle, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.