The Jay Kim Show #57: Jan Smejkal (Transcript)
This week’s episode is with Jan Smejkal who is in charge of Startup Grind for all of Asia Pacific. Jan is originally from the Czech Republic but currently, lives in Shenzhen up in China. Today he shares with us his experience first moving to China, then scaling Startup Grind from six cities, before he started, to 12 in just one year, and also how he pulled off hosting Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the Jay Kim Show’s previous guests, during the Rise Conference for a very special Startup Grind event here in Hong Kong.
Jan is what I call a super connector and a master networker, and he shares his secrets to rapidly connecting with anyone, even in a foreign country.
Let’s get on to the show.
Jay: Jan, welcome to the show. We’re very happy to have you on the Jay Kim Show. Finally, we’re making this happen. Welcome, man.
Jan: Man, I’m so pumped. I really appreciate you giving me this chance. I’m just super excited right now. I’m in Prague, actually. I’m on a business vacation in Prague, but I just said we need to do this, no matter what’s going on.
Jay: Yeah. It’s funny. We just caught up recently as well, and we’ve been talking about doing this for a while, and then we had to wait until you were halfway around the world for us to actually get…
Jan: Man, and check your Twitter because I tweeted at you, like, two hours ago, and I sent you the picture of where I am actually right now in Prague from the co-working space where I am right now. And it’s really beautiful, man. It’s beautiful. Check out your Twitter.
Jay: We’re going to add that to the show notes when this thing goes live. We can make it more real. For the audience listening in, please, Jan Smejkal — I probably butchered that.
Jan: That’s alright.
Jay: Jan Smejkal, or however…sorry.
Jan: Don’t worry.
Jay: Please tell our audience who you are. What do you do for a living?
Jan: Right now, I told you I’m in Prague, but I actually live in China. I’ve been in China for three years, almost three years right now. Before that, when I came to China for the first time, I had a business. But right now, what I’m doing for a living, I’m running Startup Grind, which is the largest entrepreneur community in the world. What it means is that we have people in 300 cities around the world. We host a load of events, we host conferences, and we just basically connect founders, investors, mentors, and we provide a lot of education, let’s say, in terms of speakers, in terms of content, and stuff like that. I’m basically running this company in the whole Asia region, because I’m the only full-time employee for this company out there. So that’s what I’m doing right now for a living.
Jay: And how many Grind communities in different cities did you have now?
Jan: In Asia, in my region, we currently have around 50 cities, 50 different communities. I am just very excited about China, actually, because that’s where I live and that’s where… I wanted to go somewhere, and I decided to go to China, and it just blew my mind. And now, even when you look at it from the Startup Grind perspective, we doubled, when it comes to the number of cities, in the past six months. So the potential is there, and I guess we’re going to talk about what’s going on in China right now in terms of entrepreneurship in this podcast. But it’s just mind-blowing.
Jay: Yeah. We’re going to get into all of that. But before we do that, and I need to ask you — and I think the audience needs to hear… Jan, you’re a pretty modest and humble guy, but for the audience listening in, he pulled off basically the impossible. He somehow got Gary Vaynerchuk to do a Startup Grind event in Hong Kong two months ago. Or was it last month? Was it June or July?
Jan: It was July. It was July.
Jay: Yeah, it was just last month. It was probably four to six weeks ago. It was insane. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but you have to tell the audience how you did it.
Jan: Actually, honestly, long story short… It was pretty simple but it was hard on the execution because he’s a pretty busy guy, and many people ask him to do stuff, especially to do stuff for free because we don’t have a budget to pay him 100k that he normally charges when he goes to speak at a conference. So, many people approach him, but basically, two and half years ago, or two years ago, I just watched one of his videos online on YouTube. I was like, “This guy, he’s a monster, in a good way, when it comes to business.” And I just started following him and following his advice when it comes to building the brand and some content and stuff.
Basically, he became my role model. Then I learned that his was going to speak in Hong Kong because he spoke at Web Summit. That’s actually where I met him face to face for the first time, because I was waiting for him in the speaker prep, and I had his books, and I wanted to have it signed. So I met him there for the first time. After Web Summit, he announced that he’s going to be in Asia as well because RISE is basically part of Web Summit series. And so they had him there as a speaker.
So I said, okay, he sometimes, when he goes somewhere where he doesn’t know anybody, he doesn’t know anything about the market, or he doesn’t know much about the market, he tries to meet as many people as possible and do more stuff in terms of content so that he can build his brand in that region.
So I basically pitched this idea to his team. I was reaching out to them on Twitter and emails and all of these things that you do for your podcast as well when you want to get some good guest. So I did exactly that. But I was pitching something that he was mentioning in his videos. I basically figured what he likes to do and figured what he needs, where he needs the help, which was China. That’s my angle, because I live in China, and I have connections in China. So basically I pitched him this idea that we’re going to introduce you to a couple of interesting people that might help you with your content in China, and we’re going to set up meetings for them. Plus, we’re going to help you with the content side because we have a pretty vibrant community in China and in Hong Kong. We can pull this event.
So then it happened. But of course, I had to meet his team. I went to New York City when I was in the states for our conference. I went to New York City. I went to the office. I talked to them, and then it was just back and forth, reminding them that I’m still around, that I really want to do it, providing value, asking them what they need, what I can do from my position. Then it happened. So that’s the long story short, I would say.
Jay: It was unbelievable, man. I’m still impressed, and I think everyone…
Jan: I’m grateful. I’m grateful as f***.
Jay: Here’s the thing, though, which is awesome. It’s classic Gary V., reverse engineering what he needed and literally targeting exactly the need. You basically took his script, his playbook, and used it against him or towards him, and it worked, which is awesome. So that was awesome. It was a lot of fun. I think that really gave a nice boost to Hong Kong. Hong Kong has really been picking up in the early stage of startup and entrepreneurship scene. And just having him come — a big international, global name like that — was awesome.
One last thing on him — I don’t want to take up too much of your time — but I just wanted to say that he’s actually… I’ve had him on my podcast, and I’ve spoken to him very briefly here and there, but I’d never actually seen him face to face and spoken to him face to face, and I only spent a little bit of time with him over the course of the night. But he has this persona on TV where he’s rah-rah and in-your-face motivational speaker and really, really amped up and hustle, blah, blah, blah. But then he has this whole other side when you meet him in person. He’s really, really genuine and down-to-earth. That was mind-blowing to me when I saw that. Because your first impression of him is like, oh, this guy is in your face. I don’t know if I like this guy. He’s a little bit too aggressive. But then when you actually meet him, he’s really engaged. He’s not checking his phone while he’s talking to you. He’s really there with you, which I thought was really genuine. That was pretty cool.
Jay: It’s true. Two things from my side. I would never do that just by myself. Of course, I had support from my team, and I had support from my friends, because actually the fact that I could visit his offices, even though he wasn’t there at that time when I was in New York City, but I could go there and meet his team, that happened because of my friend that knew that I really like him and hustle, and I can provide the value. So he introduced me to somebody in his office. So this is something that, of course, you need to put in the work to show people that you’re worth his time or that you can actually make it happen and bring that value. Because otherwise, nobody is going to make that interaction. So that’s something that I wanted to mention as well because, of course, I didn’t just pull it off just by myself.
But also, this thing that you mention about him, it’s super smart. This guy is smart because now, yes, he’s nice to us… He’s already there. He’s nice to us from 20 minutes, maybe one hour, whatever. And now we’re talking about him again, and I have been talking about him with one thousand other people, I’d say. It’s a great strategy for his brand, because now maybe 10,000 people are going to hear this or whatever, and it just builds his brand again. It elevates the brand, and it’s just so smart to be nice to people and to provide value.
Jay: Absolutely. And it comes full circle. He’s a marketing genius. Anyway, enough about Gary V. This episode is about you. I want to talk about Jan. We’re going to go deep now. Actually, let’s step back a little bit. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background, your history, and how you ended up over here to begin with.
Jan: Yeah. I am very grateful right now that it actually happened. But at the beginning, I never thought that it would actually happen because I started my first business that was an ecommerce company, and we were dealing with Chinese products, brands, and accessories, and stuff like that while I was still at the university. So I was finishing my bachelor in Prague, and I knew I wanted to do more. I wanted to become an entrepreneur, whatever you call it. So I partnered with my classmate, and we started the first business, and the business was bootstrap — no money at the beginning basically. So we bootstrapped everything from zero. It was doing quite well. We didn’t become billionaires, millionaires, but it was doing quite well because we could pay some bills. And then, because it was related to China, I decided now is the time — because I was still at the university — now is the time to go for an exchange program somewhere to a different country. And because I have this business in China, maybe it’s smart or practical to go to China, to connect these two things.
So I did exactly that. That’s why I ended up in China: first, because of biz; second, because of university. When I came and spent six months here, or one year here — now I’m in Prague, but I mean China — then I was blown away by what was going on there, how everything was growing. Everybody was so excited. Everything was so fast. Everybody was talking about entrepreneurship and next big ideas and businesses and billions, whatever. I was like, I need to stay here because I can learn much faster, much more there. I can meet very interesting people.
As I said, now I’m so grateful because I would never be able to pull the event with Gary Vaynerchuk off if I was in Prague. It’s not that I don’t like Prague. I love Prague, actually. But it’s just different. The energy is different. The scale of what’s going on in China is different, and that’s why I ended up staying, actually.
Jay: Yeah. I feel like China is huge, and Asia is huge, but I feel like for… I’m not originally from Asia either. I’m U.S. But for me to come over and, if you have the right attitude, and you really hustle, it’s actually…people are really willing to help. And so you can actually move a lot quicker here. You can expand your network really quickly and just get stuff done. That’s the one thing that I realized when I came here. Even the people that you meet in the city — and I’m sure it’s the same way up in Shenzhen — I feel like I’m one degree away. If I wanted to get a meeting with someone, I would know someone that knew that person. If I go to New York, there’s no way that I could get a meeting with one degree away from anyone that I wanted to. But that’s not the case out here. You can actually get stuff done, which I thought was pretty cool
Jan: Absolutely. I feel the same way because the ecosystem is just getting started, even though, yes, Hong Kong is slightly different because there is a lot of things going on. There is a lot of expats and a lot of businesses that are successful, maybe not in terms of startups because it’s still a pretty small ecosystem when you look at it from that perspective. But when you look at it from the ecosystem perspective — people and communities and events and stuff like that — it’s there.
But in China and other places, it’s still just getting started, especially when you look at it from the international perspective. There is, of course, a lot of things going on in China when you look at it from the Chinese perspective or the local perspective, like conferences in Chinese and Tencent doing universities for startups. Everything is in Chinese. But when you look at it from the international perspective, we are probably the people that are actually building it up because the history is not there in terms of international stuff going on. And not many people actually want to put in the work and build something for other people because it’s hard. And you know that. You have been part of that too, and you have seen people building it up in Hong Kong, and it takes a lot of time before you can actually reap all the benefits from that.
I love it. So I’m not complaining. I love this thing.
Jay: If you think about the scale, you’re talking about the second largest economy in the world which will soon be the largest economy in the world, and for you to go parachute in there, and within two years, you’re running head of the entire region, let alone, that country. That’s just incredible. If you think about the power of that, it’s very ing. It’s almost like an arbitrage opportunity for foreigners that are skilled and have the right attitude to come in and take advantage of that. And you could really, really build something great.
Jan: Absolutely. This is exactly… You mentioned the right thing. You said the right thing. It gives you leverage because there is just not so many people that are that active. Again, I don’t want to be that guy that is saying, “We are the best. We are doing the best stuff.” But there are not so many people out there that would be doing exactly what we are doing at Startup Grind. There are not many communities. There are not many companies and people that would have people in 12, 13 cities in China that are very engaged, that want to help people, that want to connect with people, and that actually want to do whatever business or startups or entrepreneurship or anything. We can ask them for anything, and they will be there to help. It’s pretty unique.
As I said, I’m grateful for this opportunity that I got and grateful for the team that I work with because I wouldn’t be able — not at all — in China, to succeed on my own. You need to have… We can talk about it. You need to have a partner in China that you can trust. To get that trust, to build that trust, it takes time and a lot of effort from your side because they are not going to trust just anybody. There must be some sort of value exchange, otherwise it doesn’t work.
Jay: Let’s talk about that. Let’s dig in a little bit now. Startup Grind. When you came here, what was your presence in China and subsequently, how did you end up being able to scale it and expand it in such a short amount of time that you did?
Jan: When I came on board, which is full time for Startup Grind, which is approximately one year ago, we probably had around six cities that were active in China, and now we have 12, and we’re going to open the 13th very, very soon. So we basically, as I said, doubled the presence in China in the last six months. Because at the beginning, it very hard for me to just figure out how we should approach the market, how to find the people in different cities that I had never been to. So it basically doubled, but it’s this kind of affect. Once you do something, you show what you’re doing in one city for one community, and then somebody from another city that is visiting sees that, and they actually take that step forward and say, “Yes, I would like to bring this thing to my city because I think that there is potential and there is need for something like that.”
So it’s definitely not just about me. It’s up to many things and many people involved. But it took a lot of time to figure it out, how to approach that. And I think one of the most important things that contributed to the success is China is that I actually live there because you cannot really manage China or manage community in China if you are not in that market because it’s so different. The culture is so different, language and everything. Even the internet is different.
So it’s not like in Hong Kong or in the US when you go to Facebook. You go to different groups and you just post on the group, “Hey, guys. I’m here. I would love to connect with you guys. Could you just give me five minutes of your time and have a coffee with me?” This is not how it works in China because there is WeChat. But WeChat is not open, so you cannot find any group just on your own, when you join WeChat. You need to be added by somebody else, so it means that you need to first create that connection with those ecosystem builders on the Chinese side, and so you need to live there.
This is one of the most important things for everybody who actually thinks about doing something in China. You need to be there, or you need to have somebody there on the ground. Otherwise, you will never, ever figure it out.
Jay: Yeah. That’s a good point, actually. Two things. First of all, like you said, the internet, the online digital world, digital commerce, digital business world that we live in is completely different in China. Obviously some of the big US tech giants are blocked there actually, and it’s completely dominated by Tencent and WeChat.
The second point is, exactly as you said, there are no Facebook dark posts, targeted ads. There’s none of that sort of thing.
Jan: There is nothing like that.
Jay: It’s definitely a lot harder to just tweet out and try to pick up a conversation with an influencer that you want to link up with and this sort of thing. So it really scales it back. But I actually like that because it’s kind of bringing it back to the old school where you do business where you actually have to know the person or someone has to introduce you to them. And it’s more real connection that you have. It’s not just, oh, I’m just going to use you. And it gets kind of spammy, and you don’t know what their true intentions are. So I absolutely agree with you that, in China, you have to be on the ground.
What were some of your experiences like as you were trying to scale, to double the city count? Did you have experiences with finding partners, both good and bad, when you were doing that?
Jan: Yeah. For me, it was…again, this happened within, let’s say, six months, but there was another six months of preparation for that. This is one of the learnings. Yes, you need to find somebody who can probably introduce you to other people. But first, you need to build that relationship with those couple people in, let’s say, Shenzhen in my case, because I live in Shenzhen, and I connected with the local ecosystem builders in Shenzhen. I was very lucky because one of my partners and friends right now — he’s actually cofounder of Startup Weekend of China. They do a lot of hackathons. They do it in Chinese, and they do it in 50 cities around China. So he has an amazing network, and he knows people that actually want to do this kind of stuff. They want to build communities, and they want to give first, and they want to build their brand, and they want to be out there and stuff like that.
So for me, the biggest thing was I was building up my network in Shenzhen, and I was specifically targeting these groups of people that were hosting conferences, and I was could provide some value because I was introducing them to speakers outside of China and kind of giving them my feedback, how they should be running these events, because I have this international perspective. And again, I’m not saying that it’s the best perspective, but if you want to be more international, you probably should have an international person or expat on the team at the same time, if a Chinese company wants to do that.
So I was basically playing this role, and I was providing this value and just hustling, being there all the time. The same with Gary V. It wasn’t just one tweet. It was tweet every single day or every single week. I was just always there to show that I’m persistent, and I really want to do this.
Then I build this relationships with this partner of mine right now in China, and he started introducing me to a couple of people in different places in different cities. And that allowed me to build those networks in different cities. Then one thing followed another, and also, I worked a little bit with Techstars. It’s the Startup Weekend thing. And they introduced me to some people in Chengdu and those people in Chengdu, because they were hosting Startup Weekend as well, they started hosting Startup Grind because they were so excited about it. One of the teammates was actually Chinese that studied abroad, and he got very excited about Startup Grind, so he started helping me to recruit our members. I didn’t even have to pay him, per se. I was providing a different value to him. I was introducing him to people because he also is building his business and stuff. So I was really hands-on helping him, just spending a lot of time on that person. But then he helped me, finding or even interviewing people in Chinese in different places. So that allowed me to scale.
Again, it’s not just by myself. It was me putting in a lot of effort and time to build something for somebody else. And because they really saw a lot of value in that, then they helped me because I started asking after one year. So that’s how it happened. But I think that’s the normal way of doing things.
Jay: Walk us through. Let’s say your next city that you want to roll out Startup Grind in. I don’t know which one it is. But whichever city you’re targeting next, what is the process you go by to start a chapter of Startup Grind? You obviously get introduced to someone on the ground, local, that’s probably active in the scene and an advocate of the startup community. What’s the next steps after that?
Jan: Let’s start here. Let me give you an example. The last chapter that we started in China was Hangzhou, which is the home of Alibaba. Maybe some of the people from your audience have heard about this city. How I found this guy… The events that we hosted last month there was the biggest event ever for us in Asia. It was for 350 people, and they had some of the greatest companies coming. There were CEOs coming as VIP guests. It was really amazing.
So how I found this guy was actually very simple. Again, I was providing value, and I was basically building relationships with other people in Shenzhen from different communities. And I think this connection happened — I actually remember it pretty clearly. This connection happened through my friend from Lean In community in China. She was running Lean In community in Hangzhou, and I met her in Shenzhen, and we clicked because we were talking about the same stuff — what we were doing, what our mission is, what we want to do in the future. I told her, “I’m running Startup Grind, and I’m always looking for new, excited people that would love to do something like that in their cities.” And because she was from Hangzhou, I asked if she knew somebody in Hangzhou that would love to do something with us.
She recommended a couple of people, and then I interviewed a couple of people, and I really didn’t know who this guys was. His was telling me, “I just came back from Shanghai. I spent some time in Shanghai. I was working there, and now I’m in Hangzhou, and I’m building this, and I’m consulting right now because I work for a couple of companies, and now I’m just figuring out what I’m going to do. And I really like the idea, and I have these partners and everything.”
It sounded too good to be true because he had basically everything, and he had this passion. I was like, let’s just give it a try. So he gave it a try, and he pulled this event that is just amazing. He had Aston Martin sponsoring the event or whatever. It was really, really crazy. And this is something that happens in China all the time. Not all the time, but many times, that you don’t even know what’s happening, and then it’s crazy. It’s really, really big, and you don’t even know how it happened. And so this is how it happened. And actually, this is what I’m going to do for our next city again.
You asked me what’s going to be the next city. Honestly, I don’t know because I have now connections through these people, like Global Shapers and [inaudible 00:27:53] community, and all these other guys that are actually doing something actively in China. I am always talking to them and asking them how I can help them because that’s how we do it at Startup Grind anyway. But it works. It’s the best strategy. Just talk to people. You build a relationship by really being genuine about helping and not wanting anything from them at the beginning. You just want to connect with those people. Then, because you click, and you do similar stuff, you start talking. And because they want you to help them with some of the conference, recommend some speakers, you do that, and then they ask you, “Thank you very much for your help. How can I help you?”
I say, “Do you know some really passionate people that would love to do something, what we do in these 12 cities?”
And they say, “Yeah, let me connect you with five people.” And that’s the start. Then you start interview and talking to those people and maybe getting some recommendations on them or maybe talking to some companies in that city, if they can support you in terms of venue and stuff. And this is the process. It takes a little bit of time. It’s definitely not that you get connected to one person and suddenly this person becomes the guy in two days. You probably need a couple of weeks to go through the process and everything. But this is how it is, just doing business development but the best business development. The strategy that usually works for me is that I’m just genuine about helping other people. And then, eventually, I ask maybe once, and it works.
So that’s the strategy. Nothing else.
Jay: It’s amazing, as well, like you mentioned earlier in the show, Startup Grind doesn’t pay its employees. It’s all volunteer. So you’re truly trading value–
Jan: Sorry. I need to cut you off because they pay their employees because I am one of the employees.
Jay: Sorry. Sorry. Okay. They pay a small amount of employees, such as yourself, the only one in Asia-Pac. But for the most part, it’s volunteers that basically are getting enough value out of it to make it worth their time. And I know because I’ve volunteered to moderate some of the events here in Hong Kong with your team.
Jan: Thank you for that.
Jay: Of course, man. No worries. But I know for a fact, when I work with your guys, your team here, they’re just doing it out of passion. So it has to be worth something for them because time is money. Time is time. That’s the most valuable commodity you can never get back. So the fact that you have all these cities in Asia, and you are consistently adding enough value to not only bring this type of audience but the keep the volunteers engaged and wanting to be part of this community, that’s very pure. It has to be genuine. You can’t fake that.
Jan: You can’t. And also, it’s the hardest thing, or hardest part of the job. Because you’re basically HR manager because you’re “hiring” people. We’re not hiring, because we don’t pay them. But we’re hiring them as volunteers. So it’s still the process. You need to talk to them. You need to meet them if you can, and you need to understand what they want from this. Because, yes, it’s passion. It’s really altruistic because they’re spending a lot of time for free. Yes, they can make some money because, actually, our model is that we give them 80% of all revenues that they make in that city. So if they sell tickets, and if they get sponsors or something, they can keep 80%. So it’s not that they cannot make any money, but they will probably not make enough money to make it their full-time job. Because it’s just impossible, and they have different goals and stuff.
So I think the hardest part is to really balance this. Sometimes, for them, it’s time to move on. People will grow up from that, and they will realize, yes, this was an amazing experience. I built my network. I built my brand. But now it’s time for me to start my own company or to join some company that is actually going to pay me enough money or something that I want and is going to give me the next level of experience. So you need to talk to them constantly. You need to know what they want, at what stage they are, and you need to balance it. Either provide a little bit more value or a different value, or just talk to them and figure out maybe it’s time to move on, so we need to find somebody else. Maybe you can support them, to mentor them how to do that. But we want to make it consistent. We want to keep it consistent because that’s how you build the community. Otherwise, it will never work if somebody will run it for one year, and then they will leave and nothing is going to happen afterwards. It’s constant. You need to talk to them. You need to understand those people.
For me, it’s an amazing experience because I’m understanding the culture and the thinking of Chinese people that are actually doing this. Why? What is their why? That’s what I’m trying to understand.
Jay: That’s valuable because there is a lot of implications once you figure that out. You’re figuring out how to do business and how to connect with people on a very, very base level.
So, Jan, what do you have planned for the rest of 2017? How are your goals? You mentioned you’re pushing forward with launching more cities in China and the region. What do you have planned in the pipeline?
Jan: Yeah. Now, as I mentioned, we have 12 cities active in China. So I would love to have 20 by the end of the year. I’m actually now trying to hire the person from Chengdu I mentioned that was helping me with opening a couple of cities, interviewing people. So I’m trying to get some money from sponsors or from somebody to pay him so that he can join me, either part-time or full-time, to help me accomplish this goal, because, yes, it’s harder right now because we are in the major cities. But once you go to the smaller cities, people are not really internationalized. They don’t speak English, and so you need to have a local person that can actually explain exactly what you’re doing. Yes, I study Chinese. I speak a little Chinese, but the message that I would be giving would be completely different. They might not understand that in a way that I want. So I’m trying to get this person on board to scale in China to 20 cities. And, in general, APAC region or Asia region, what I am responsible for, I would love to grow to at least 60, 65 cities so that it becomes maybe even one of the biggest communities so that we can make–
Jay: Wow. Just for perspective, where are sitting now? You have 12 in China, and then the rest of APAC…
Jan: So rest of APAC, altogether, even with China, it’s around 45, 50 cities right now. So it’s not really growing too much because, honestly, the potential for us is pretty limited at the same time, because we are already covering the major cities, like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and Seoul, and all of these major cities where the ecosystem is already ready for this, for this kind of thing, or there is a lot of people excited about these things. We already have that covered. So now is the time to grow in India where we are not doing super well right now because we don’t have the right people, or we don’t have enough people on the team. So I need to focus on that. Then maybe Indonesia because we can maybe open two, three more cities in Indonesia.
But this is the problem of Asia. It’s not like in the US. In the US, every single city is basically ready for this kind of thing because it’s much more developed. There are more people, and people understand the vision and the mission. But in Asia, we need to explain it all the time. What does it mean to build community? What do you get from it, how you build a team? Why is it worth it? Should I do it for free or not? Should I work for somebody to get some money?
The growth is definitely slower right now. China, no, because China still has a lot of potential, and actually, the Chinese government is pushing this mass entrepreneurship and supporting students and startups to build companies, to create this innovation, and to build these small companies. So they’re supporting it. So, yes, maybe the growth is still possible. But around Asia, it’s definitely more limited because the development still needs to happen before we can really have 200 cities, let’s say. Or we need to change the model. Maybe we need to support more students or whatever. So we need to figure it out. It will not be doubling the whole Asia but maybe doubling China and really growing fast in India because there is also a lot of potential, and we are not so strong in India yet. So we have a lot of avenues to look at.
Jay: Yeah. It’s pretty exciting. I’m pumped to see your progress. Hopefully you get your guy on board, and he’ll throw in an Aston Martin for you, and you guys will be all ready to roll.
Jan: Yeah. I’m excited as well.
Jay: Second to last question, Jan, and again, thanks for your time. It’s been good jamming with you. Give us one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs that might be looking to just get out there, maybe do some networking, maybe connect. You’re a super connector, and you some to have figured out how to do that really well globally, not only in the West and in Europe where you’re from but also in somewhere as foreign as China. Within a year’s time you’ve managed to literally hit the ground running and just get in there and network. So give us a piece of advice that our audience can take away.
Jan: When it comes in the networking, I love it. I’m a people person. So for me, it’s a little bit more natural than to others. But really, I would say, if I should summarize what we have been talking about here the last 30 minutes, 35 minutes, it’s really about figuring out what makes you happy or what you’re good at, or what kind of value you can bring to those people. And just do that. Just be genuine about offering help first, not really thinking about the short-term result, that you want to do this and that and you need to get that kind of thing right away from the person, because it usually doesn’t work. Or it’s very short term. But if you really focus on providing value first, building that relationship first, and then maybe ask. Or maybe it will just come naturally. That person will actually ask you, “What are you doing right now? Can I help you with something?” Then it happens, and then you have so many opportunities, and then you can pick what you want to do, which avenue you want to do to, or which path you want to choose.
So this would be the networking advice. Maybe the last advice, because, again, I’m in China, and I think that’s kind of my angle right now in China/Asia. I think really, you need to be much more patient probably than anywhere else, because to build a relationship with somebody who is in China, it takes a lot of time. So you need to be patient, persistent, and also, don’t take things too seriously because I told you, I mentioned this partner of mine that I have in China. It wasn’t always about great stuff going on. We had a lot of different discussions, and we had some issues and troubles in communication and this and that. And sometimes it was from my side, and sometimes it was from his side. Once we had this conversation, like, do we actually want to do it. Does it make sense for us? So be really, really, really extremely patient, and be open-minded, super open-minded, because you will see things that you have never seen before in China. And if you want to succeed, you will probably have to overcome many of these things.
It doesn’t matter that you always have to work with the same person, but it’s the learning process, and you really need to go through this experience, I would say, if you want to do something in China. And so these are the basic things that I would mention. Just hit me up if you have some specific questions. I’m very happy to chat or to answer those.
Jay: Yeah. Where can my audience connect with you and follow you and find out a little bit more about what you’re doing?
Jan: It’s very simple. Right now, my personal brand, or whatever you call it, is that I’m in China. I’m the China guy. So you can found me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, everywhere, as YourChinaGuy. So if you go to @YourChinaGuy, everywhere basically. I’m not on SnapChat really, so I’m not doing a lot of SnapChat, but otherwise, I’m basically everywhere as YourChinaGuy. And my email is very simple too. My email is Jan@StartupGrind.com. So if people have some requests or some questions when it comes to China Startup Grind community, how to connect with people, whatever, just shoot me an email.
I think I can say that I’m a pretty approachable person, and I will reply to all of them or most of the emails, anyway. So you can reach me there.
Jay: Nice. Your China guy. I love that. That’s awesome. Hit up your China guy, for all you guys listening in, guys and gals. It’s been awesome, dude. We’ve talked about a lot and appreciate your insights and the advice you gave at the end. I’m really excited to see how you grow this year. Best of luck to you, man. I can’t wait to see it.
Jan: Thank you very much, once again. It has been a pleasure and super grateful for this opportunity. So keep on rocking, man. You’re doing really, really good stuff.
Jay: Awesome. Thanks, man. Talk to you later.
Jan: Thank you.
Asia's latest investing trends and on-the-ground field research delivered directly to your inbox