In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with James Lalonde, Co-Founder of Yodo1, yoli and RTM Asia. We start out discussing innovation in Japan, where James began his software career, vs innovation in China. As a 3-time founder in China, we then talk about why starting a business in China as a foreigner is not as uniquely complex as one might think. We also talk about how James’ company Yodo1 became one of the top 5 mobile game publishers in China, then moving into a discussion on how the startup ecosystems that exist in China can vary greatly city to city. We then chat about James’ thoughts on the Future of Work and how well he believes post-secondary education in China sets up graduates to be successful in the work-force - spoiler alert he doesn’t. We then discuss the One Belt One Road initiative, something James’ is a bit of an expert and thought leader on. Enjoy!
Today on The Negotiation, Todd speaks with author, speaker, university professor, and serial entrepreneur James Lalonde. He shares decades of experiences working in Asia, comparing and contrasting the social, cultural, and political characteristics of Japan, China, and North America to illustrate how these similarities and differences impact each country’s influence on the world stage.
James believes that building a business in China as a foreigner does not present any more challenges than building a business anywhere else does. Having worked in multiple countries, James does not see any particularly unique barriers for outsiders looking to start a business in China. “It’s really about how you approach getting your idea to market, and those things are really not specific to any culture. Being a successful entrepreneur is not necessarily a cultural thing.”
Different startup ecosystems exist in different regions of China. According to James, “Beijing is not really good at marketing itself” to foreign investors and entrepreneurs by virtue of having more than enough internal demand. Regardless, if your company specializes in software, IT, or AI, it is best to have a base in Beijing. If you are a manufacturer, Shenzhen is the place to be. Places like Shanghai and the surrounding areas deal best with consumer brands, which include lifestyle and fashion products. Other provinces may specialize in data centers or medical tourism. It all depends on what industry the government wishes to promote in the particular locale.
James asserts that the higher education system does not prepare students for the future of work. Advanced degrees are not often earned through practical experience, which means that the primary endeavor young people are preparing for while taking these courses is, in fact, the rat race. “You do not get credit for what you know, in a lot of organizations,” James reminds us. For his own companies, he prefers to hire individuals with a thirst for knowledge and an aptitude for creativity, rather than those who are “book smart” in business.
Asked his opinion on the Belt and Road Initiative, James questions the long-term ramifications of connecting several dozen countries with this particular infrastructure network. For instance, once the “bridge” is built, China has minimal, if any, control over how individual countries will make use of it. Will these countries truly use the network to improve trade relations with China, or take advantage of this resource and leave China in the dust?
What is The Negotiation?
Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.
The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.