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The Negotiation

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China is the 2nd largest economy on the planet, yet it's the most difficult to enter and manage well for foreign brands. However, success stories are starting to emerge as brands begin to rely on experts in China market-entry to build and execute new strategies and end-to-end China consumer digital experiences. The Negotiation delivers interviews with those who understand how to be successful in China, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make expansion to China a winning proposition for any company.
57 Episodes
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In this episode of The Negotiation, we welcome back XinYi Lim, who is now the Executive Director, Sustainability, and Agricultural Impact with Pinduoduo. Late in July of 2020, it was in the news that PDD’s founder has moved into an executive chairman role as well as a couple of key new additions to the C-suite so we talked about why that is and what prompted the changes. We also talk about the growth of live streaming in China and how PDD has now entered the space as well and what makes their product unique compared to their competitors. We then discuss what C2M is, why it’s so relevant today, and why it’s often confused with D2C. We also talk about why PDD is starting to see some comparisons to Costco, and lastly now that we’re 6 months out from the worst of COVID-19 in China I ask XinYi if they are adopting new strategies and to talk about the misconception that PDD only services the lower-tiered cities. Enjoy!
In our latest episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Wei Liang, Professor of International Policy Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Naturally, most of our discussion centered around foreign policy topics involving the US and China, starting with the Belt and Road Initiative and whether recent negative sentiments towards it or the impact of COVID has slowed down their progress. We also talk extensively about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and whether it is comparable to the IMF or World Bank and how it has performed over its 5-year history to date. I also ask Wei to weigh in on the growing isolationist nature of the US, and her opinion on why we have such a hard time in the west trusting the intentions of some countries in the East. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we had the opportunity to talk to someone who has decades of experience working with some of today’s top tech company’s in both Japan and China, Gen Kanai. Gen is a Japanese-American who has worked with Toyota USA, Sony USA, Sony Japan, Digital Garage, Mozilla, and most recently, Animoca Brands. Throughout this discussion, Gen gives us a history lesson on why eBay failed and Yahoo won with an auction platform in Japan, and how Google won in Japan in spite of itself simply because Yahoo Japan chose them as their preferred search engine instead of the Yahoo US - favored, Bing. We talk about how Twitter has been such a large success in Japan and that anonymity is an underlying reason why. We also discuss the impact China can have on a US-based tech company through a look back at why, after a trip to China, Snapchat’s CEO demanded changes to their platform that their user-base simply wasn’t ready for. We end the show with some important takeaways on how to be success-ready when entering Asian markets like China or Japan. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Benjamin Qiu, Partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP, who has recently relocated to HK from Beijing. After studying both computer engineering and law in the US, Benjamin moved back to Beijing and joined Google, later leaving in 2009 with then Head of China for Google, Kai-Fu Lee, to act as legal counsel for his raise of $115m USD in a venture capital fund called Innovation Works across the table from Cooley LLP, whom he joined shortly after the deal was done, before joining Loeb&Loeb later on. We start out talking about the early days of law in China, and then how he came to be involved in Innovation Works, and how in 2009 they knew that the future of internet in China had arrived via mobile. I ask Ben what the terms and investment sizes were 10 years ago when Innovation Works started investing in early-stage startups in China and how it differed from YCombinator and why. I ask Benjamin about the legal frameworks of today in tech in China, do they protect Chinese entrepreneurs and their IP, and how closely it is mirroring what one would find in Silicon Valley. We also talk about what Chinese investors look for in early-stage startups and whether it is completely safe now for foreign-led early-stage startups to take investment from Chinese investors. We discuss the stress that exists, even on local success stories like ByteDance and not just the Facebook’s and Google’s of the world, in order to play ball with China’s Big Brother and toe the information line properly to be allowed to thrive. Lastly, as we begin to wind down this fascinating conversation, we talk about what a liquidity event might look like for a technology company based in China, and what some of the most interesting sectors of innovation are right now in China that bold foreign investors may want to look at putting their money into. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Shanshan Tang, Global Business Lead, Canada, at Alibaba. This was a fantastic opportunity to talk to someone from the largest eCommerce companies in the world that operates outside of China. We spoke about Tmall and Tmall Global, both the international shoppers and local Chinese, and some noticeable trends that have been shaped by COVID-19. We also talked about how and why COVID-19 changed purchasing habits and drove offline employees online as live streaming agents for brands instead of in-store clerks. We talked about what solutions Alibaba offers new brands on its platform given the changing environment, and what the future looks like for the ecosystem. We spoke about tactics for driving brand growth, how to build a brand’s personality into their 360-degree marketing plans, and described what ‘hero products’ are. We then discussed what product categories are moving fastest up the scale on both sides of the ocean in consumer demand. And we did it all in almost 20 minutes. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Barbara Finamore, author of “Will China Save the Planet?” and Founder and Senior Strategic Director, Asia, at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Obviously this show was all about pollution in China but that’s where the obvious stops. We do take a walk down memory lane of how China got to where they are today, but we also discuss China massive investments in cleantech, wind power, solar power, and electric vehicles as well, all huge investments that dwarf the rest of the world, innovations that the rest of the world will likely and gladly adopt en mass as soon as possible. I ask Barbara’s opinion on local concern levels around pollution in China and whether those concerns change as we go up the demographic scale, and we talk about whether Chinese local citizens conflate or are able to separate conditions like smog from fog. We also discuss how informed and motivated the general populace is around hot topics such as pollution and climate change. Barbara has been squarely positioned at the center of the energy sector in China for 30 years and was a fascinating interviewee on these topics and more, most of which are front and center amongst foreigners when thinking about China. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with XinYi Lim, Senior Director of Corporate Development at Pinduoduo. She is responsible for Pinduoduo’s international corporate strategy efforts. As most of you know the growth story of Pinduoduo has been described as “miraculous.” It’s the fastest-growing e-commerce scale-up in China, cracking the RMB one trillion (about $141 billion) in transactions milestone in less than half the time it took Alibaba and JD. That, alongside a few other numbers, tells the story of an irresistible force shaking up China’s e-commerce landscape. If you took that story to the bank and picked up PDD shares at IPO, you’d be up 150% right now. Needless to say, this was all a story we were very excited to dig into. We talk to XinYi about interactive eCommerce and PDD’s backstory and differentiating factors and discuss observable trends in consumer behaviour. We also talk about which of those shifting behavioural-trends will be temporary or permanent and why. We also discuss Pinduoduo’s long-term growth strategy in the coming months and into next year, and their plans for international expansion. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation I take the chance to catch up with an old and dear friend of mine, TR Harrington. TR is currently the CO-Program Director at MOX the Mobile Only Accelerator, an SOSV-backed accelerator based in Taipei, Taiwan. TR is one of very few foreign entrepreneurs to both build and sell a company inside China. His company was Darwin Marketing and he spent 13 years building it and we discuss the ups and downs and learning from that journey. We also talk about his work helping brands think through their customer experience, and the shift from key opinion leaders to key opinion customers, and the importance for brands to prioritize improvements as a strategy. We then chat about what MOX is and does, and why they and SOSV, in general, are so active and enthusiastic about the SE Asian region as a great place to look for growth both for brands and for startups. We end with an interesting look at whether Yahoo really lost or not when they went to Asia. Enjoy.
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!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Justin Mallen, Founder, and CEO of Silk Road Telecommunication, a data services company based in Hangzhou. Justin has been in China since the ’90s and founded his company in the year 2000, foreseeing the immediate need for data service centers to play a pivotal role in China’s emerging internet roll-out. We talk about what it means to process immense amounts of data for high-traffic days like 6.18 or 11.11, and how China grew from no internet users to triple that of the US at nearly 900 million today. We talk about the state of China’s mobile internet and which of the big three are dominating and why, including a quick lesson on something called “peering” that is widely used in North America but still not adopted by the Chinese carriers. We also talk about 5G - what it is, what it means for infrastructure, and the future technologies it brings significantly closer to becoming a reality. Lastly, we talk about Huawei and how that company is doing amidst tremendous pushback from the Trump Administration on security concerns on one side, and the impact of COVID-19 on the other that has decelerated the roll-out of 5G, something that most expected to catapult Huawei to the top rungs of the market. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Andrea Fenn, Founder & CEO of Fireworks, a digital company based out of Shanghai. We talk to Andrea about his early experiences as a journalist researcher with CNN and how the fashion industry has changed over the last decade. We also talk about his company Fireworks and why he refers to it as a “post-digital” agency, and how client requests have evolved since 2011 when his journey began. We then turn our focus to live streaming, an incredible phenomenon akin to QVC or a late-night tv shopping channel, except the extent of production is usually an iPhone on a tripod. We ask Andreas to make sense of it for us, talk about whether the Chinese consumer market could potentially grow tired of it soon and treat it as a fad, and is it something that he is recommending to his current clientele. Lastly, we discuss whether live streaming is a viable option for new brand entrants into the Chinese e-commerce ecosystem. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with an old friend of Todd's, Mark Greeven. Mark is a Chinese-speaking Dutch Professor of Innovation and Strategy at the Institute of Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, however, Mark has a long and storied career in China the predates his recent move to Europe. He is also the author of 2 books both published by MIT Sloan, the first in 2017 Business Ecosystems in China: Alibaba and Competing Baidu, Tencent, Xiaomi and LeEco, and his second published in 2019, Pioneers, Hidden Campions, Changemakers, and Underdogs: Lesson from China’s Innovators, as well as several very good articles that I also recommend you go find and read. Needless to say, we spend a good amount of time asking Mark about his books and explaining what he means using terms like hidden champions as a class of innovators, or what he means by swarm innovation and rapid centralized decision making when referring to the 6 typical was Chinese entrepreneurs innovate. We close out the conversation discussing a famous Chinese manufacturing giant who has set the bar for surviving the pandemic, economically speaking, deep-diving into how the structure of their organization has allowed them to set the high watermark for enterprise resiliency during these difficult times due to COVID-19. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with our good friend and past guest, Michael Zakkour. Michael is not only a best selling author on Amazon with China’s Super Consumers and his latest release, New Retail: Born in China Going Global, he is also the Founder of 5 New Digital. For our second recording with Michael, we focused quite a bit on the impact of COVID-19 as this really is the most important topic on all minds including corporate and the brands they own and manage. We talk about which retailers are doing well vs those that aren’t, and what key strategies are making the biggest difference, bearing in mind that “doing well” has taken on a more subdued metric. We also look specifically at Chinese brands for some answers on both accounts as a country whose economy has come back online recently and some data points there are starting to come in. We talk about changes in consumer trends that we can already see taking place and some predictions on more to come. We end with a look back to the last pandemic of this magnitude, the Spanish Flu, and track the outcomes on consumers then, through until today, trying to make sense of what we’re going through, especially as a business owner would, and the opportunities for entrepreneurs who might be buoyed by some strong tailwinds of opportunity. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we chat with Bay McLaughlin, CoFounder, CEO and Board Member at Brinc.io, an IoT venture capital fund, and accelerator program that operates in developing countries. We discuss why Brinc chooses to operate outside the G8 intentionally, and how investors they approach to invest in Brinc typically respond to this thesis. We discuss fundraising pros and cons for IoT startups and where the use of funds typically go vs the more traditional SaaS or App startups. We also discuss the archetype of a successful IoT entrepreneur and juxtapose the Eastern European or APAC region founders against their North American counterparts. We also discuss the effect COVID-19 has had on their industry, and some really cool IOT tech we can look forward to landing into our lives in the next few years. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we talk with Dr. Julie Klinger, Professor of Geography and Spatial Sciences at the University of Delaware where she’s also a part of the Faculty of Minerals, Materials, and Society. This episode is all about the industry of rare earth metals or rare earth elements, an industry that China dominates and every piece of technology rely on, from magnets to rockets. We talk about how the industry has evolved over the last 30 years, the fact that they aren’t actually rare at all, and why, if every country has them in some abundance, we don’t all mine our own. We also uncover a fascinating narrative in that the world of rare earth elements and metals is catalyzing a change to the decades-old governing rationale behind global supply chains, where the cheapest labor and least amount of environmental regulation always wins. This is a really interesting and unique episode about an industry that impacts our lives daily that nobody knows about, that China currently dominates a producer, and why they would actually like to give that #1 spot up. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Rick Watson, CEO, and Founder of RMW Commerce Consulting, a strategic commerce consulting company based in NY. We kick things off talking about the difference between Alibaba and TMall, a difference Rick refers to as eyes open vs eyes closed, a reference you’ll soon understand. We talk at length about the differences between Amazon and the Chinese platforms, getting into how Amazon could learn a thing or two from Alibaba or JD in improving its product selection and whether or not Alibaba or JD would ever start their own white-label brands of products similar to Amazon Basics. We talk about how different sectors work well or not in the different markets like apparel, luxury or cosmetics, and we discuss some of the other up-and-coming platforms that are making their marks in the Western world of eCommerce. We also dive into the future of eCommerce, discussing the potential or lack thereof for the Asian platforms to band together or stay independent, and whether social commerce will ever take hold in America as it has in APAC. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Joshua Eisenman, Associate Professor at the Keough School of Global Affairs @ the University of Notre Dame and Senior Fellow for China Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington DC. This show takes us deep into the relationship China has with both the developed world and the developing world. We look at the current state of affairs and try to explain the path it has taken over the last 40 years. I ask Joshua whether the PRC treats different areas of the developing world differently, and how the one belt one road initiative fits in with their global strategy. Joshua also talks about why we shouldn’t see China stretching their reach as necessarily worrisome to other countries or politicians and why. We end the discussion discussing what global organizations can learn from China’s efforts in bridging the divide between the developing and developed worlds. Enjoy.
In this episode of The Negotiation we speak with Ashley Galina Dudarenok, also knows as “The China Watcher”. Ashley is the founder of Chozan, a “Harvard Business School for China”, and Alarice, a digital marketing agency focused on China, and she is also a 3x best selling author and successful vlogger on YouTube. On today’s show, we focus quite a bit on the impact of COVID-19. We talk about some of the biggest shifts she’s seeing from a brand positioning point of view, as well as some of the biggest shifts she’s seeing from a consumer purchasing point of view. We talk about how brands hove to adjust their relationship-building strategies with their consumers, and the lessons learned from Chinese companies that have been successful so far as China is one of the first economies to start their engines post-pandemic. We also dig into what product verticals will recover quickly against a bleak backdrop for most, and what unique opportunities there might be for foreign brands given most global economies are only going to get worse before they get better. Enjoy!
In this episode of The Negotiation we speak with Sarah Weyman, Chief Growth Officer at Dentsu Aegis Network China. We talk about how brands have been able to be successful coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic by reacting swiftly and acting empathetically. I ask Sarah how marketers are responding to the epidemic, the impact it’s had on their 2020 business plans, and how they are re-aligning in response to such an unprecedented situation. We also looked at how logistics and supply chain challenges are impacting marketers right now and in what verticals, as well as the resilience being shown by both marketers and consumers. We talk about the impact on mainstream brand equity, tracking across awareness, quality and reputation metrics, that the coronavirus has had. We also discuss the regulatory and policy landscape around marketing in China especially with regards to the Coronavirus and maintaining integrity so that products and services designed to help counter the pandemic are allowed to be front and center. Enjoy.
Today on The Negotiation we are speaking with Ben Robinson, Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus mostly covering the Japan and Singapore region. We talk about how to successfully localize a product to be successful selling into the Japanese market, noting how they are really rather price-insensitive and how Japan is one of the most insular and protected markets globally. We also talk about how long it might take, and the strategies brands can deploy, in order to build trust which is difficult to obtain as Japanese consumers typically live in the camp that foreign brands don’t build products with the Japanese in mind. We discuss the different social media in Japan and some consumer trends that have emerged in the last few years that are unique to Japan that brands should know about as well as their appetite for some of the trending techs coming out of the west like cryptocurrency and cleantech. We talk about how to be successful on the Shopify platform in Japan and the importance of getting delivery right including not just when but also what time.
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