By Rita Liao
September 13th, Shanghai. 8AM. There was anticipation and excitement in the air. NewCo attendees arrived at the cozy, wood-laden office of Chinaccelerator in the flourishing downtown of Shanghai beside the famous Jing’an Temple.
“Nothing like this existed in China before, where you get to visit the offices of the hottest internet companies in China and learn from the management what makes their companies tick,” said William Bao Bean, Managing Director of Chinaccelerator, which brought NewCo to Asia for the first time.
After a refreshing breakfast at registration, NewCo attendees hopped on five buses — the event festival was divided into five tracks visiting five companies each. These companies were targeting some of China’s fastest growing but toughest markets, ranging from luxury e-commerce and cloud storage to fintech and travel. Many of them have raised tens of millions in Series B rounds from investors such as Alibaba and Australia’s Telstra.
“I’m not sure what could have made it better. The visits were so well-organized. The participants were open and friendly. The speakers were very interesting,” said Scott Goldman, Project Manager at Duke Fuqua School of Business. With Track D, Scott visited mei.com, China’s leading luxury e-commerce; Dianrong, the fintech platform founded by former Head of Technology of Lending Club; BTCC, China’s oldest Bitcoin trading platform; and XingRen Doctor, a mobile healthcare startup that grew from 0 to 400,000 healthcare professionals.
“NewCo is a great opportunity to get an ‘inside’ look into the ‘backstage of many successful Chinese IT startups and meet their CEOs and founders, by the hand of NewCo,” says Alejandro Buriel Rocha, Country Director of IE Business School China Office. Unlike a conventional conference, the office visits were highly personal. Some were gifted headsets to try out mei.com’s first VR shopping experience, others were buying bitcoins at BTCC to get a taste of a future where everyone uses bitcoins. The COO of Teambion gave each attendee the company’s customized postcard.
People were enthused at every level, both the host companies and the participants. “Well organized event — good mix of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors,” said Ted Lai, cofounder of Angelvest. Of the 25 attendees on Ted’s track, there were startup founders, investors from major VCs and senior management from Fortune 500. The attendees challenged the host companies: How do you keep your startup staff motivated? How did you grow sales with zero cost marketing? The attendees inspired each other: Yibin, who just quit his job in San Francisco to work on his startup, had an engaging discussion with his “neighbor” on the bus. “He has just reinsured my belief in my vision.”
In the evening, NewCo Shanghai’s capstone was Chinaccelerator’s 8X8 Speaker Event, where eight seasoned entrepreneurs each gave an eight-minute speech. Every year, Chinaccelerator — the first startup accelerator in Asia — opens up its mentors to the community for free to share lessons on starting up. Over 150 8X8 attendees joined the NewCo crowd, including NewCo Shanghai’s partners that made the festival possible — Publicis Media, CaoHeJing, Verb and many more.
At the after party, those who had visited companies during the day spoke passionately to the non-NewCo attendees. As volunteer Jina Shin, Business Development Manager at Tolmao Group, told her friend: “It was the best place to learn about business in China and meet with inspiring entrepreneurs and experts on a personal level. I am so grateful to have the chance to work as a volunteer and hope to have another NewCo very soon!”