Shen Peng: Meituan And Wang Xing Taught Me How To Be An Entrepreneur
摘要： Shen Peng has left Meituan and founded the mutual support and guarantee platform SHUIDIHUZHU, which has already received an angel investment of ¥50 million, funded by Tencent, IDG Capital, BANYAN Capital, Meituan-Dianping etc. This article tells the entrepreneurial journey of Meituan from Shen Peng’s perspective.
Shen Peng had only thought of leaving Meituan once berfore he finally left the company for his own entrepreneurial journey. In June 2010 when Shen Boyang together with his partners were planning to launch Renren’s Nuomituan, Shen Peng was given with an appealing offer: The position of the general manager of Nuomi Beijing with annual income of ¥350 thousand and the promise of getting him a Beijing permanent residency. At that time Shen Peng was only 24 years old and was about to graduate from school. He had a girlfriend whose family also needed him to be capable financially. Naturally, he had the impulse to join Nuomi.
One Saturday evening, Wang Xing paid him a visit while the rain was pouring. The pair chatted for a long time. Wang Xing asked Shen Peng’s opinion on financial freedom and did a calculation for Shen Peng, and the result was to achieve financial freedom in Beijing in ten years Shen Peng would need about ¥30 million. “You can also achieve this target at Meituan,” Wang Xing told Shen Peng. Before this meeting, Wang Xing didn’t have much of communication with Shen Peng, who was only an intern at the business department in the company. However, at that night, Shen Peng found that Wang Xing was a genuine person who really cared for the team. Eventually, Shen Peng refused Nuomi’s offer. Shen Peng also received many invitations from other companies, and he rejected every one of them.
According to Shen Peng, he joined Wang Xing’s team to experience the process of kickstarting a startup and nurturing it to grow big. During the six years at Meituan, Shen Peng had been transferred to different departments for about nine times. He had always been challenging himself in different areas that he wasn’t good at. In the end he was able to manage all the challenges.
On April 15th 2016, Shen Peng left Meituan and founded the mutual support and guarantee platform SHUIDIHUZHU, which has already received an angel investment of ¥50 million, funded by Tencent, IDG Capital, BANYAN Capital, Meituan-Dianping etc. Later on May 9th, SHUIDIHUZHU was launched and on August 19th, the number of insurance policy members hit over one million.
After two interviews, he decided to follow Wang Xing to learn about entrepreneurship
My intention was simple, that was follow Wang Xing and learned from him on entrepreneurship.
I was born an adventurous guy. When I was in college, I used to work at an overseas study agency etc. I was doing business but I could never make it big. At that time, the Internet started to become popular, so I figured maybe I should try to do business with the Internet. To do that I even found some partners who are good at technologies. But still, I just couldn’t pull it off,” Shen Peng said. “Then it occurred to me that I might as well just find a reliable person who’s really good at this thing and learn from him or her about how to kickstart a business in the Internet sector. So naturally I wanted to join a good team.
I used to really like Renren. In 2009 FanFou was blocked so I turned to Wang Xing’s business instead. I felt like he could do something different.
However, a few months later, media started to say that Wang Xing’s FanFou was about to die soon and he was looking for a new shot at the market. So I searched his email address on the Internet and contacted him. I still remember his email address was @sankuai.com something. In November 2009, I sent him my CV. Later the operation director Guo Wanhuai called me up and chatted with me on the position (product manager) I applied for for half an hour. In the end, Guo believed that I was more suitable for operation or business department instead of product manager. However, they didn’t have such positions at that time.
I didn’t just give up. I continued to keep an eye on their hiring information. One month later I found that they had started to hire personnel for business cooperation. So I sent my CV again and got in the next day after an interview. Then I learned the interviewer who called me up was Yang Jinfang, the very first vice president of the sales department and the current general manager of Meituan-Dianping’s financial development.
Yang Jinfang asked me to have the interview at his office. I saw Wang Xing the moment I entered the office. I said hi to him but he seemed to be busy with something and didn’t notice me. After the interview with Yang Jinfang, I had a simple conversation with Wang Xing, which was mostly about basic informations such as hobbies and interest etc. Later I learned he wasn’t interested in sales and wasn’t much of a talker. He just tended to interview every potential staff in the early phase.
Wang Xing immediately announced that I was officially part of the team after our little chat. I became the no.10 staff of Meituan. Wang Xing suggested to us to have dinner together to celebrate it. It wasn’t until that dinner did I start to know what Wang Xing was trying to achieve with this venture.
Wang Xing told everybody some of his thoughts about LBS (location based service) and expressed that groupon was the function fitted for the development of China. At that time, we hadn’t launched our website yet so Wang Xing wanted me to get in touch with businesses first. In the afternoon that day, Yang Jinfang taught us how to run sales operation, translate, screen-capture, and print Groupon’s page. We took all the printed materials that showed what groupon was with us and went to talk to businesses. “Our website can bring you a lot of customers and all they need to do is offer an appeal discount for the customers. Are you in?” We asked them pretty much the same questions.
On the first day I went to talk to businesses alone. But gradually I realized it’s not going to work. Wang Yuemeng then also joined me and quitted his operation manager position. At first it was really hard. We hadn’t put the website online yet and the customers’ money were transferred to Meituan’s account first. It then would take a week for Meituan to give businesses their money. Meanwhile, businesses also need to serve the customers.
During the first two years it was hard for Meituan. Compared with its rivals, Meituan fell short of scale and financing ability. We never thought we could make it this far. A thousand orders per day would be something groundbreaking for us at that time.
First time getting poached
In June 2010, Shen Boyang together with his partners were planning to launch Renren’s Nuomituan, and they gave me an appealing offer: The position of the general manager of Nuomi Beijing with annual income of ¥350 thousand and the promise of getting him a Beijing permanent residency. At that time I was only 24 years old and was having a relationship. I needed money. Naturally, I had the impulse to join Nuomi, since it was a new product, which means I could be one of the core members in the very beginning. Besides, Meituan was expanding fast and competitions had emerged between departments. I talked to Guo Wanhuai and many others about this and none of them could convince me to stay. Wang Xing wasn’t at his office during those days.
At one Saturday night while the rain was pouring, Wang Xing asked me to have a conversation.
We chatted for a long time. Wang Xing asked my opinion on financial freedom and did a calculation for me. The result was to achieve financial freedom in Beijing in ten years I would need about ¥30 million. “You can also achieve this target at Meituan,” Wang Xing told me. Before this meeting, Wang Xing didn’t have much of communication with me. I was only an intern at the business department in the company. However, at that night, I found that Wang Xing was a genuine person who really cared for the team. Eventually, I refused Nuomi’s offer.
For a young person, personal growth is of the most important as one can always earn more money in the future. I felt that Wang Xing had more Internet genes within him, which qualified as an Internet entrepreneur. He had already experimented quite a few projects. I had nothing to lose being with him.
After that I never changed my mind whenever other companies tried to poach me.
At first I was in charge of Beijing, Tianjin and Shangdong province’s markets at Meituan. Then Beijing was off my operation list, I was degraded. I was only 24 years old back then and I ran a team of over 400 people. It was crazy.
I didn’t like the fact that I was being degraded. But later I studied Agan’s past experience (former president of Meituan-Dianping’s dining department) and found he also experienced similar changes at Alibaba, from the chief director to director, a degrading of three levels. Agan told me Alibaba’s management culture and philosophy, and I in fact really agreed with Alibaba.
Management is an independent subject. It’s not something people can do well just with talent. Experience is essential in this area. Unlike making products or marketing, which you can do well with a great hunch or idea, management is more of a process. Without having actually gone through this process, it’s impossible to have a deep understanding of it.
When I took over Shandong province’s market, Meituan was only no.3 on the chart. Slowly we fought to the top one. In fact, this was the common situation for Meituan. We were never the top one, but we fought for it.
I dare you
In late 2012, Meituan began to show its edge. The market could pretty much sense that Meituan would be one of the few that would last. During that year, we focused more on basic stuff. We continued to optimize the details.
That’s the time the idea of becoming an entrepreneur myself started to brew inside me. I wanted to challenge myself further.
I happened to be in Beijing making a report, so Wang Xing contacted me to have a discussion in the evening. He talked about Meituan’s future, telling me that Meituan’s groupon business is like winning the group stage of the World Cup. But groupon didn’t equal O2O, he told me, only a tip of the ice berg of O2O. In addition to that, he also told me our next rivals would be the BAT instead of ordinary players. Apparently, competing with BAT would be different, probably groupon wouldn’t be the center of the battle. But if we could take them out in the groupon area, it’s still a success and would fit better the user experience.
He asked me and Wang Huiwen (president of Meituan-Dianping’s dining platform) to establish a new department called new product department to further explore and incubate a more competitive product. He dared me.
We discussed for the whole night, from 6 pm to 12m, analyzing different industries. When we finally found our theme, I was so excited and said yes to it.
At the night, Wang Xing informed Wang Huiwen about it. The next day we had a meal together and made the deal official. Wang Xing asked me to run the new department the next day, joking that maybe if I wasn’t at my original post the sales performance might even go higher.
At the new product department, I was an assistant of Wang Xing first, then I went into business analysis to study the downstream and upstream industrial chain of the catering industry. Later I became a project manager, leading a small but competent team to explore new opportunities. We had been exploring for almost ten months, and eventually we found our new product: takeout service.
During the three months before we finally started to develop Meituan, we had been keeping it a secret. Many people were wondering what we had been doing for nearly one year. Even the staff in the company would gossip around. We were under a lot of pressure, but we didn’t have extra pressure from Wang Xing.
When kickstarting Meituan Takeout, the biggest obstacle was how to start from 0 to 1. What’s the business model of this product? What’s the future competition layout in the market in the mid and long run? What’re the strategies for a late comer? What’re the game rules? What’s your understanding of this business and the industrial chain? These were the things we had to considered. When you are actually creating something, you are never just copying or pasting ideas.
Before I went to make the takeout product, I didn’t participate into any decision making process of the company though I was part of the management team. But when I was making the takeout product, I had to think like a decision maker. When you are actually in charge of kickstarting something new, you would probably find executing a decision and making a decision is completely different. Any wrong decision would bring major loss to a company.
From day one I knew I really like Wang as a person. He’s pragmatic and honest. When Wang Xing talks on team culture, you would hear the expression genuine and no resentment very often. It means you only judge the action not the person.
Wang Xing is capable in many areas. He knows about products, technical stuff and management. The feeling I got when partnering with him was that he’s amazing. His MBTI (Myers–Briggs Type Indicator) supplements mine. I am a person of execution. When I think of something I will do it immediately.
Wang Xing also got angry with me very often. When making report on my work, he would just throw a pen or something at me with swearing in front of others if my logic wasn’t right or my understating wasn’t deep enough, as if he’s a strict teacher. At first I didn’t understand it, but later I did. He’s just one of those people that react directly with people he really knows. As for me, it’s more important to have deeper thoughts than keeping my face.
Choosing the entrepreneurial path
Anyone should do two or three things that really matter.
I was proud of my achievements in the field of groupon and takeout. But I felt like I needed to do something different and more valuable and meaningful.
In recent two years I found that people started to post fund raising information for seriously ill patients on WeChat moment. I personally supported one of our staff’s father too. And I also witnessed one of our delivery staff having an accident. My biggest thought at that time was if people chose to raise money on WeChat moment it wouldn’t be efficient enough. It’s probable that by the time you got the money it’s already too late, missing the chance to treat the disease or injury with the best treatment at the best time.
When companies grow to a certain point generally they would buy commercial insurances for their staff, which are usually mid or low-level insurances. When a staff had major disease such as leukemia, we found such insurance could only over a fee of 70,000 to 80,000 RMB while the money needed could be around 400,000 RMB. Ordinary families might be able to pay up to 200,000 RMB but most families are not able to cover this large fee.
Good commercial insurances are not the first choice for companies. Some effective medicines, including imported medicines, are not covered by the social insurance. Given the current social security system in China, I figure supplements are needed to cover more people. I waned to do something, so I studied different insurance companies around the world. Ultimately I decided upon the mutual insurance.
In fact, I went to Wang Xing to talk about becoming an entrepreneur so I could generate social value in 2014 before, but Wang Xing told me I had a brilliant idea but I could wait up for a better time since the medical and insurance markets were deeply regulated by planned economy. At that time Meituan was expanding and needed me, and I didn’t have a clear vision for my project, so I remained with Meituan.
I joined Meituan to learn. I still wanted to be an entrepreneur. This is something that has never changed.
By the end of 2015, Meituan and Dianping merged, and the new venture has a great pool of talents. Once again, the thought of becoming an entrepreneur myself surfaced. It was only a week before the Spring Festival. I went to Wang Xing again. He expressed that our fight wasn’t over yet. However, I believed we already had a killer plan in all areas and a talent pool that would drive the company forward. I really like Meituan, but I had to go my own way, and Wang Xing understood that.
At the night we talked about my startup plan, from 9pm to 2am. At first Wang Xing still tried to convince me to stay and said to me the company could fund me to establish a new company that focuses on insurance. But I didn’t think it suited for Meituan-Dianping’s developmental pace as the company’s main businesses were still local life service. If we had an extra insurance company, it would increase the management cost for Wang Xing and Wang Huiwen. I didn’t like the idea of it. So I insisted.
Then Wang Xing told me his entrepreneurial stories in early times. Starting from 2003, all these years working with Wang Xing, I also witnessed the downfall of some people who failed for their wrong decisions. Some of them gathered lots of attention in a short period then just vanished.
I realized that a true entrepreneur must know about himself or herself from the very beginning. First you have to find something you like and something you can make it happen. Then you have to be patient. You can’t just spend all your money once you start to have some profits. Thirdly, no matter how strong your team is, you also need luck on your side. The strongest players not always win. And in short, once you go on the entrepreneurial path, you are never going back.
Wang Xing cried for three times
I officially left Meituan-Dianping on April 15th and it had been all over the news on March 19th. On that day my father came to Beijing via the high-speed train to talk to me. He was surprised about it since my career was sill uprising and Meituan-Dianping was also developing well.
We then had the first farewell dinner. I invited 15 colleagues who were also my good friends in the company. Nobody knew I was leaving. And when the first dish was put on the table, Wang Xing had already finished a bottle of beer. He smashed the beer bottle and cried holding me. I was also in tears. Everybody at the table was shocked and not knowing that’s happening. At the second farewell dinner Wang Xing also cried. When it came to the third one, Wang Xing joked to me that he had run out of tears and told me to have a great party together with joy instead of tears.
I have been with Meituan for 6 years and I gradually form a set of thinking on Internet entrepreneurship. Of course, my current understandings are correct but the future is unpredictable.
When I was partnering with Wang Xing, he didn’t really tell me all the complicated stuff because he didn’t want to waste my time. But usually these problems he had were the most disturbing ones. Now I am the CEO of SHUIDIHUZHU, and also need to face many things. I start to think about a lot of things as well. Everyday, half past five in the morning I will wake up and post stuff on WeChat and I usually go to bed at one or two in the morning. So half of the week I only sleep for three to four hours.
Although there isn’t a clear line between right or wrong in many things, efficiency is something obvious for all to see.
During the first month we just mounted the takeout war, we needed a highly-efficient system to compete with our rivals. And during the war we also nurtured a lot of small and mid-sized businesses. However, these businesses were the least cost-effective ones. We burnt money to attract small and mid-sized businesses but the user base remained small. But we couldn’t let up the pace since our rivals were competing with us. It was really irrational. Later we divided businesses into different groups and offered subsidies accordingly.
At the night of the merger, I was informed to create a group chat to notify the staff to have a meeting at 9 tomorrow morning. I felt it was sudden. Rumors had been on the air for a long time and I didn’t really believe it since it’s obvious there’s a winner between Meituan and Dianping.
After the merger, I learned about the talented teams at Dianping, especially the mid managers, who are exceptionally talents and comprehensive in decision making and executing. Meituan’s teams are good at carrying out plans and decisions. So we have had really great years after the first two years. As for Dianping, their path had been difficult, which forces them to think comprehensively. The merger could boost both sides, which is Wang Xing hopes for.
The number of Meituan Takeout’s users is only like 50% of Eleme’s. There’s a huge gap. So we have been working on the user growth. And we also continued to build up our team step by step. We didn’t want to rush the whole process in a short period which might disrupt the whole project in the long run.
Let’s look at our on-ground forces for example. When It’s work time, you can literally see no one in the office. And if you do see a person, he or she is preparing to work. So our staff at the frontline all have very high self motivation, which comes from their belief in this business.
However, believing in it is one thing, actually doing it is one things. Therefore everyone needs time to learn about the business in practice and learn about the pace of the team. So I believe that most failed mergers lost the battle for their aggression. Meituan and Dianping’s merger, on the other hand, absorbs talents from both sides. Still, we interviewed everyone and spent months to finish the whole process. Meituan Takeout recruited around 2,000 people internally from the group. We didn’t relieve anyone. We absorbed them instead.
100 members in 100 days
All the money I have for SHUIDIHUZHU was given to me after I left my former post. The first patch of funding is from some of the colleagues at Meituan-Dianping, as well as the investment from Dianping’s co-founder Long Wei and DLCAPITALS’ Li Jing. The money was sent to me the next day I quitted my job. At last our angel investment of ¥50 million was funded by Tencent, IDG Capital, BANYAN Capital, Meituan-Dianping etc. This article tells the entrepreneurial journey of Meituan from Shen Peng’s perspective.
In the earlier phase, we hosted a few activities like a charity. Mutual insurance is special in terms of ethics. That’s why it’s more complicated to make it happen.
Commercial insurance is a business, and businesses go for money, therefore you can easily find many commercial health insurance policies do not cover diseases such as glaucoma, hepatitis and other very common illnesses.
Mutual insurance is different. There’s a group of people who share the same probability to get a disease. What we do is create a support pool for these people where they can help each other out.
The demand for heath insurance remains high. For people who have been diagnosed with serious diseases need such insurance the most. For instance, if a person is infected with hepatitis A, he might not have severe health problem but would be discriminated. For that we can arrange a support group for them. And we shouldn’t refuse hepatitis patients when they are trying to get an insurance. If they continue suffer from their illness in the next one or two decades, they would run out of money to get treatment.
SHUIDIHUZHU is just like a non-profit crowdfunding platform. It’s standardized and supervised by the authority. When you support others, you also get others’ support. In other words, we are making a more equal crowdfunding platform that’s not set on the path of another ordinary insurance company. We base upon the concept of mutual insurance and do charity in China. It’s a supplement to social security system and commercial insurances.
After cooperating strategically with China Social Welfare Foundation, we became a legal institution. But now we are still thinking about the possible way of commercialization in the future. We might not go the insurance path. We tend to enter the healthcare market. For example, we can recommend gene testing and physical examination services to our potential anti-cancer members. One of the original ten staff of a company, for example, fought hard for five years at the company and missed every physical examination every year. Later he discovered he had cancer. In similar situations, we can actually prevent such tragedies by setting up standard prevention mechanism such as gene sequencing, which can test for major diseases in just 5 minutes instead of three hours at a hospital.
Currently we have about one million subscribing members. In the future, we will cover many members’ medical fee every month. For hospitals, we are also a source of patients. We recommend the patients to the most suitable and reliable hospitals for treatment. I do believe this line of business has a lot of potential.
We are not just simply following the trend of Internet insurance even though it’s extremely hot in the market. We want to to things more meaningful and fitted our corporate value.
SHUIDI (water drops) form streams. You pour one drop of water regularly and then you will have an ocean that supports you when you are in trouble. By August 19th, SHUIDIHUZHU has been online for 100 days with one million members on the platform.
I joined Wang Xing’s team to experience the process of kickstarting a startup and nurturing it to grow big. During the six years at Meituan, I had been transferred to different departments for about nine times. I had always been challenging myself in different areas that I wasn’t good at. In the end I was able to manage all the challenges.
One of Meituan’s core values is growth through learning. In my opinion, we should always keep up with the pace of the time. In today’s startup scene, it’s all about three abilities: the ability to learn, the ability to gather information, which allows us to gather information, embrace changes, and learn about new knowledge and skills; the ability to focus, which sounds easy but not many people can achieve; the ability to maintain health, as without a healthy body everything will be pointless.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @JUDY BUSINESS&LIFE, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.