Reporter’s diary: 2017 World Internet Conference
By Cheng Lei
["china"]
‍Between these people there are over a hundred years of venture capital (VC) experience and over a trillion dollars of market cap.  Alibaba, Tencent, Ctrip, Baidu, JD and Dianping were all helped by these Midas men. 
Andrew Yan and Hugo Shong invested in Alibaba and Tencent in their early days.  Both say the longer they invest, the more humble they become. After all, the public only hears about the hits, not about the misses. 
Neil Shen founded Ctrip and Home Inn and took them public then became the “start-up entrepreneur” behind start-up entrepreneurs, founding the Sequoia China Fund which has struck gold in the internet space. 
The circle of friends among entrepreneurs and investors is built on history. It is male and geek dominated.  Mao Daqing, who founded UrWork says that the third day after he founded the venture, his friend, Wang Chaoyong, ChinaEquity CEO, came to talk about investing. 
CGTN's Cheng Lei speaks with Wang Chaoyong, ChinaEquity CEO

CGTN's Cheng Lei speaks with Wang Chaoyong, ChinaEquity CEO

I had expected a discussion on the mechanics of investing and technology – instead it was centered around reading humans.  Andrew Yan, the outspoken veteran from SAIF – called it “being duped,” that is, being won over by entrepreneurs who later couldn’t deliver.  
Hugo Shong, a fellow Hunanite, agrees that all founders who believe in their ventures all tell good stories. So when it comes to picking winners, aside from the business model and technology, what do these venture capitalists look at? “Vision, spirit and kindness. “
Andy Yan and Hugo Shong go way back – it shows in the easy way they talk about each other – they joke about the hits they missed or the stars they got into too late. Shong is on a health kick and says he won’t invest in autonomous driving (which Yan just advocated) because we need to walk more. The IDG chairman even puts health as a criteria for a good entrepreneur. Yan instantly disagrees, “come on when they’re young they’re all as strong as oxen.”
Is there political correctness in investing?  Zhou Yahui, whose Kunlun game empire also invested in Grindr, is full of nervous energy, fidgeting constantly onstage.  He admits he cannot read women (perhaps unsurprising, he is also known for paying out a 1.1 billion US dollars divorce settlement) nor Americans, so he won’t invest in them – but he has a thing for scientists and Ivy League schools, so maybe, he adds, female entrepreneurs who went to Harvard are OK. 
CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

But Jin Li, former Harvard lecturer now deputy dean at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, disputes the approach – “women who graduate from Harvard have expectations up to here…(hand gesture above his head) and they’re no good with reality which has  a wild spectrum of outcomes.” Gavin Ni, of Zero2IPO, pipes up with “data shows top schools don’t necessarily produce star entrepreneurs.” 
On age, Shong says “we were reluctant to sign off on an entrepreneur born in the 60s, but eventually we did.”  Everyone agrees that it’s crucial to get inside millennials’ heads. 
Allen Zhu, whose fund’s money powered Ofo -- gives exceedingly curt answers for fear of arousing media attention on the bike-sharing app’s viability. 
What is everyone investing in? Artificial intelligence empowered applications.  5G. Healthcare. Education.  New retail.  Nobody mentions the “sharing economy” in the wake of the bike-sharing debacle. 
CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

Bruno Bezard, former vice finance minster of France, now managing partner at Cathay Capital, says he wants to change stereotypes about the French – which tends to be of cigarette smoking, wine swigging, garden philosophers – and instead filling it with images of lab rats and geeky inventors.  For a former civil servant, he shows much humor and guts – giving his first ever speech in well-pronounced but tone-wrong mandarin. 
Now that the internet population dividend is no more, unicorns may be harder to find.  The unicorns in the room (Sensetime, Urwork, Evernote) don’t like the terminology either – investment guru Edward Tian says focusing on valuations will drag you down.  
CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

Zhang Quanling – a former CCTV star anchor and now founder of Purple Cow Ventures, is adamant she won’t invest in media – “I’m too familiar with it and likely to be too nit-picky.” 
If there is one keyword to take from the conversations – it is “patience.”  While the media tends to sensationalize the next big “thing,” the latest buzzword or new IT girl/boy, the underlying wave of technology, from PCs in the 80s, the internet in the 90s, mobile technology in the last decade, AI now, takes years to brew into a society-changing tsunami. 
Behind every widely reported meteoric rise are years of toiling, a scrapheap of dented ambition and the venture capitalists with the Midas touch.   
1085km