After 54 hours of non-stop sweat, blood, and caffeine, 5 teams and 39 entrepreneurs presented to a packed house of investors and tech enthusiasts at StartupWeekend Beijing.
Bravo to all these entrepreneurs for putting themselves on the line: startups are still risky business, both financially and personally. Eric Wang, leader of the Wodache team, said that he left his job in finance to later pursue the calling, “When I came to China to do a startup, my mom was so angry that she wouldn’t talk to me for a month. She wouldn’t pick up my call on Mother’s Day.” You’ll be relieved to hear that mother-son have since warmed, somewhat.
Here’s a round-up of the five startup teams that came out of StartupWeekend Beijing. E-commerce was a theme among this batch.
1) Meibao (美包)
Meibao means beautiful bag in Chinese. And Chinese women love beautiful bags: in an informal survey of ladies in Beijing’s Sanlitun area, the team found that 50% owned over 15 bags!
The team pitched pricing as daily rentals (~300 RMB or 3-5% of value), weekly (1200 RMB), or an annual subscription program (15,000 RMB) that sends along a new bag each month. Because China lacks a developed credit system, users would have to put a deposit equal to the retail value of the bag into escrow, which is potentially a big psychological hurdle for renters.
The team plans to purchase merchandise from authorized retailers (LV, Chanel, Gucci), promote brands that are not as popular in China (Michael Kors, Kate Spade), and potentially also purchase second-hand themselves. Bags will be retired after about one year at a high resale price.
Meibao had detailed numbers for its social media campaign: 15-20% of expenses would go towards marketing. It plans to target a range of Chinese women’s sites that have about 136 million unique readers, including popular fashion bloggers on Sina (45 million uniques). It has already set up a Meibao blog on Diandian, China’s Tumblr.
The luxury rental model has become popular in the US with women’s fashion accessories (e.g., Rent the Runway: “love. wear. return.”). But I don’t know of any online rentals of consumer goods that have succeeded in China to-date, aside from car rentals. It’d be important to assess the social stigma around renting rather than owning.
Meibao earned the highest marks from the VC judges, although it had only a powerpoint (albeit a sparkling one) and UI designs to its name. To be fair, it was an impromptu startup whereas some of the other teams had been working on their projects well before the begin of the weekend.
I’d wager that there are many Chinese ladies who hope that this spark becomes a real business. Ruby Lu of DCM VC invited them in for a real pitch.
2) Wodache (我搭车)
Wodache.com, “I hail a cab,” is a cab-sharing service. Taxi cab riders can connect with others in their vicinity to share a cab to their destination. It could save riders some dough and could reduce congestion if adopted in numbers.
But I don’t see how it solves my major pain point: those times when it’s impossible to get a cab at all, at any price. I’d like to see something like Ubercab in the US where I can pay more to get a cab NOW.
Wodache was deemed runner-up at StartupWeekend. The team is serious about this idea: committing to develop it full-time.
Follow Wodache on Weibo.
3) Pengpeng Tao（碰碰桃）
Pengpeng Tao is a mobile app that empowers businesses to broadcast instant coupons. Is traffic low on a Wednesday 2-5pm? Offer a free cup of coffee of 40% off an entree to students in your area (the team intends to launch in Wudaokou, Beijing’s student district).
Pengpeng Tao is a solution for savvy businesses that want customers at off-peak hours, but can’t afford to discount by the 60%+ that group-buying deals require, explained founder Steven Cheng.
Judges expressed concerns that phase one of the SoMoLo (social-mobile-local) market is intensely competitive, despite few proven models: what stops one of the group-buying services from eating Pengpeng Tao’s lunch? It’d also take significant effort to train businesses to push out instant (or also scheduled) coupons in accordance with the demands of their business.
Robin Chan, a VC and former co-founder of XPD Media (acquired by Zynga) said, “I think you’re going to get killed,” to which Steven replied, “I hope to prove you wrong.”
Follow Pengpeng Tao on Weibo.
4) BabyWishList (宝宝梦)
BabyWishList allows parents publish a wish list of items they need for their little monsters. Family and friends then compete to be the biggest uncle－－”Chinese people love ‘face’”, founder Bryan Xu said.
The site will also function as an SNS that encourages parents to update others as to the development of their screaming bundle of joy. An estimated 17 million new babies are made in China each year.
The site will monetize via e-commerce referral links placed next to desired items. In addition, I think there’s also the potential to add a marketplace for secondhand goods as Stockbrokers does in the US. What do you do with the crib after using up your one or two baby quota?
The team also expressed interest in moving into other wishlists, like weddings or birthdays, but the user overlap seems tangential at best. Babies, the team said, was the best market to start with because it offers multiple gifting occasions as opposed to one-off events.
5) Summer Camp Search Engine
This service addresses the burgeoning market for children’s summer camps in China. Founders said this was done in the US starting back in 1995.
Summer camp is just taking off in China, with a particular bent on the educational version: language study or preparation for a school overseas are popular choices.
One observation about the nature of StartupWeekend Beijing: at most StartupWeekend global events, entrepreneurs come together and form teams on an impromptu basis.
StartupWeekend Beijing is more curated. It’s highly selective. Several teams were pre-formed before the weekend began, already having worked on their ideas for some time. That creates a mix of impromptu startups StartupWeekend and a DemoDay event.
Follow StartupWeekend Beijing on Weibo so you don’t miss the next event!
StartupWeekend Beijing is organized by Red Pagoda Resources.
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