What Are Entrepreneurship Camps' Sponsors And Participants Up To?

摘要: Why is the Chinese business management training market burgeoning? What’s the difference between different entrepreneurship camps? What are the actual benefits of these camps for entrepreneurs? Can they really learn something through these camps?

(Chinese Version)

When I entered that meeting room, a woman in red was saying something quite sentimental on the stage. After a while, I learnt that she was reflecting on her friendship with fellow entrepreneurs and how unwilling she was to graduate and part with everybody.

She is Qu Fang, founder of Xiaohongshu.com, one of the major cross-border e-commerce platforms in China. She was attending the commencement ceremony of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp. Indeed, she was very good at appealing to people’s emotions and many people in the audience might feel as if they were attending another college commencement ceremony. This type of feeling is exactly what the camp’s sponsor Tencent wants to create among participants. They are not only learning new skills and knowledge in the camp, but also making friends with fellow entrepreneurs.

Jointly established by Tencent and CKGSB in 2015, Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp is one of the most renowned high technology communities in China. As one of the well-known BAT companies, Tencent gathered together a large group of entrepreneurs and startup projects through the camp, including some widely-known startups, such as Xiaohongshu, Keep, Inke TV, etc.

In an age of mass entrepreneurship and innovation, entrepreneur training camps and business schools are never out of date. According to Zhongtai Securities’ estimate, the size of Chinese business management training market has reached over $13.2 billion by 2014, and is growing at 15% annually from 2015 to 2019. If so, the size of the Chinese business management training market is to reach over $23.5 billion by 2019.

Therefore, a good number of entrepreneur training camps and organizations have emerged in China, from well-known ones including Lenovo Star, Peking University Entrepreneurship Camp, Sino-Europe Entrepreneurship Camp, Alibaba Lakeside College to the large number of less-known ones such as Baotuan Entrepreneurship Camp, Blackhorse Training Camp, TusStar Entrepreneurship Camp, Cong Academy, Haier Entrepreneurship Training Camp, Starting Point Entrepreneurship Camp, etc. Some of them are more like incubators, others are more like part of their open ecosystem, while the rest is nothing but just business.

Apple Inc’s co-founder Stephen Woznizk was delivering a speech at the commencement ceremony of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp

Apple Inc’s co-founder Stephen Woznizk was delivering a speech at the commencement ceremony of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp

1

Although different entrepreneurship camps boast different features, entrepreneurs participated basically for the same reason.

“As a matter of fact, most entrepreneurs enroll in these kinds of camps for three reasons: attending classes, getting acquaintance with tech tycoons and communicating with fellow entrepreneurs,” Lei A’min, founder of Cong Academy, revealed to TMTpost. It follows that the gap between different entrepreneurship camps also lies in the component of mentors and mentees.

That’s why many entrepreneurs would do everything they could to enroll in Jack Ma’s Lakeside College, and many entrepreneurship camps would attract entrepreneurs with celebrity or veteran investors. Therefore, entrepreneurship camps sponsored by tech giants have a natural advantage.

If you take a look at the mentor list of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Cmap, you might often see names of many senior executives from Tencent and other tech giants in China, such as Tencent’s COO Ren Yuxin, Tencent’s vice president Tang Daosheng, Sogou’s founder and CEO Wang Xiaochuan, Cheetah Mobile’s founder Fu Sheng, etc. Besides, college professors and entrepreneurs with rich experience in business management are no stranger to these lists.

Some of the most common courses in these camps include: Business Management, Startup Financing, Financial Management, etc. According to Qingteng’s introduction, its courses include: Corporate Management and Governance, Product Thinking, Business Model and Marketing, Successful Internet Strategy, Startup Capital Strategy, Talents Leadership Strategy, etc. Qingteng’s goal is to guide entrepreneurs in the primary stage from aspects such as business management, financing, product, etc.

Lakeside College, however, focuses much attention on business management. Its founder Jack Ma once said that the different between Lakeside College and other entrepreneurship camps was: Lakeside College teaches entrepreneurs how to run their startup for a longer time, not how to establish a startup. Therefore, Lakeside College’s courses (Session One) are comparatively speaking set more on a strategic level: Structural Revolution, Business Insights, Data Technology Era, etc.

The large majority of entrepreneurship camps, however, invite celebrity investors and well-known entrepreneurs to share their experience with participants. Cong Academy, targeting mainly Post-90s entrepreneurs, is a typical example. Exchange among fellow entrepreneurs is one of the most highlighted features of such entrepreneurship camps.

2

The most direct benefit of such entrepreneurship camps, however, lies in financing. “For startups, being able to participate in entrepreneurship camps such as Lakeside College and Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp is more like some kind of endorsement. If the founder of a startup has the honor to participate in such camps, its valuation might also rise,” Wang Xiaoming, a mentor at Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp, explained to TMTpost.

According to Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp’s official data, valuation of the 40 startups-the first batch of its participants since the camps was established-has risen from $4.1 billion to over $14.7 billion, while 80 per cent of its participating startups have entered the next round of financing. In addition, 8 of its second batch of participating startups-have raised $486 million within three months.

13 out of 90 participating startups of Qinteng Entrepreneurship Camp directly received investment from Tencent, including Xiaohongshu, Weiying, Keep, etc. They have all become a part of Tencent’s open ecosystem.

However, it’s no easy job to be invested by tech giants. While the enrollment fee of Lakeside College is over $41,300 (three-year), Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp’s membership fee is as high as over $73,700. Besides, enrollment rate is generally quite low. It is reported that passing rate of Qingteng Camp’s first session is around 10 per cent, but merely 2 per cent for the second session.

While most entrepreneurship camps target startups, Lakeside College only targets enterprises with a mature business model and established more than three years ago. “Interviewing candidates is similar to looking for investment opportunities. We evaluate them based on their understanding of the industry as well as potential of their startup. Since most mentees’ startups are still in the primary stage, founders’ personal capabilities are the most important factor,” Zhu Ye, an interviewer and mentor of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp’s first session, revealed to TMTpost.

3

In the interview, Zhu Ye revealed to TMTpost, unconsciously, that he had only interviewed candidates and shared his experience once at Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp.

Indeed, most mentors actually had only nodding acquaintance with mentees. Take Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp for an example, among all the forty to fifty mentors (guest & internal mentors) who’d taught courses for mentees, only half of them would tutor participants part-time.

Guest mentors would just go once they finished their courses-this is actually one of the most awkward thing about entrepreneurship camp, though Qingteng revealed to TMTpost that there was close interaction between mentors and participants in private, for example, they would exchange WeChat IDs and phone numbers.

In addition, most mentors would share with entrepreneurs their failures. By sharing with entrepreneurs mistakes they’ve made and their own experience, entrepreneurs might have the impression that they are the same as mentors when they just started their own companies.

However, are Wang Xiaochuan, Jack Ma and Fu Sheng failures really useful to entrepreneurs?

“While entrepreneurs can learn things they don’t know before through all kinds of training courses these camps provide, they can learn how to do this or that by listening to mentors’ sharing courses,” Wang Xiaoming, a mentor for both Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp and Sino-Europe Business Academy, explained to TMTpost.

In other words, training camps can not only teach entrepreneurs recognition-level knowledge, but also guide them in areas such as corporate structure. Wang Xiaoming maintained that mentors played a key role teaching mentees how to do this or that successfully.

“For example, when we study American incubator YC, we found that mentor played a key role in its entire system. For them, it’s quite easy to look for investment and make money. However, it’s no easy thing to find a proper mentor who can help you avoid making mistakes along the way,” Wang Xiaoming explained, “Mark Zuckerburg solved lots of problems he didn’t expect beforehand by finding proper mentors to guide hime in time.”

However, it’s quite rare to see one-to-one guidance in Chinese entrepreneurship camps. Wang Xiaoming happened to be one of the few mentors who would conduct one-to-one guidance with its mentees. He helped afanti and Inke TV’s founders polish their products, upgrade their corporate structure and even adjust their product direction. As a matter of fact, he’s also a senior management advisor of Tencent.

4

As is mentioned above, attending entrepreneurship camps is quite similar to attending college: you can’t directly apply what you’ve learned in real life.

“I often had the impression that I was back in college. There was so much knowledge to learn, yet I can’t acquire all of them immediately,” Insta 360’s founder Liu Jingkang, a member of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp, recalled.

We also interviewed several other entrepreneurs who’ve participated in such camps, and all of them would talk about how they’ve helped fellow entrepreneurs in these camps. “Although there might be no obvious impact on our startup’s current financing, we do learn a lot by exchanging ideas with CEOs of other great startups,” a participant of Qingteng Entrepreneurship Camp (Second Session) explained to TMTpost.

“Vision of people around us might determine our own vision. Our vision might be quite limited when we fight alone, but by exchanging ideas with fellow entrepreneurs at these camps, we might be able to see a larger picture and even be inspired by other entrepreneurs,” Liu Jingkang concluded.

Still, the most practical benefits of entrepreneurship camps are: facilitating current financing, broadening social networks and exploring more potentials resources. As a matter of fact, Liu came to know Faceu and iYunmai’s founders, who are about the same age to him, through the camp and has already established business cooperation relationship with their startups.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Han Pei please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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