Tag Archives: China

An Interview with Pitch Dingman Competition Finalist: Gravity LLC

In anticipation of the final round of the 2017 Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center is interviewing each of the five startup finalists about their progress and upcoming challenges as they prepare to compete for a total of $30,000 in startup funding on March 7.

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Richard Kong, Founder & CEO of Gravity LLC

Gravity LLC

Richard Kong, Founder & CEO

logo6_concept_1_copyGravity LLC produces Gravity Tales, an online platform that publishes English translations of Chinese and Korean fantasy novels. Since Gravity Tales first launched in January 2015 with just one novel, the website has grown to become one the top 1,600 most visited websites in the United States, and in the top 3,000 in the world. The reasons for its popularity lie in its niche appeal among its adolescent user base. While Japanese “light novels” and comics have gained relative success in the U.S. publishing industry, Chinese and Korean works have a limited to non-existent presence on retail bookshelves. In addition to providing a forum for a growing segment of young readers looking to explore interests in Chinese culture and history, Gravity Tales offers its users free, unlimited content. The site’s rapidly increasing daily page views attracted advertisers, allowing Gravity Tales to collect revenue to pay its contracted translators and editors without charging users. At first launch, Gravity LLC founder Richard Kong was a junior in high school. Now a computer engineering freshman at University of Maryland, Richard is the youngest finalist in this year’s Pitch Dingman Competition.

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Top 5 Highlights from AdVENTURE Challenge: China

By: Justin Taubman

I am home in Washington, D.C. and I am sifting through hundreds of photos and reflecting on tons of experiences as I prepare to move to Boston for my internship. I think it would be useful to list my five favorite parts of the program now that it is over.

  1. Customer Discovery in China

Each of us had been working on our business plans since the course began in April. We had been asking Chinese students at Maryland about our concepts, and while it was useful, nothing was as helpful as talking to our target customers when we were actually in China. We learned so much about customer pain points and the nuances about doing business in China compared to other Western countries. This was invaluable for launching our business in China.

  1. shnaghai dumplingsShanghai Dumplings

Several us arrived to Shanghai a few days before the program began, so that we could get to see some more of the city. We decided to venture into a very local part of town for lunch to get the famous Yang’s Dumplings. I had never tried these types of dumplings before. They were different from the dumplings that I had before because they were filled with a slightly sweet tasting hot soup. So you took a little nibble out of the side of the dumpling and sucked the soup out and then ate the rest of the dumpling. They were DELICIOUS! They have ruined dumplings in the States for me.

  1. Traditional Chinese Banquet Style Dinner

Our group experienced its first traditional banquet style dinner in Bengbu, where we dined with city officials, local businessmen, and students from the local university. We were considered guests in this dinner and therefore we were toasted many times by our hosts. The toasts would consist of a short speech and then the word, “ganbei” (literally meaning “dry glasses”). Our hosts usually toasted with a rice wine alcohol, such as maotai in a small glass. The toasts were repeated at least a dozen times throughout the meal and everyone got pretty “loose” as a result. Lets just say I mustered up enough courage to try snapping turtle after a few toasts.

  1. Lisa: Our Beijing Tour Guide

The tour guides we had in each city were fantastic, but our guide in Beijing was outstanding. Lisa was extremely knowledgeable about the city that she grew up in and about the history of her country and culture. Among many sites, Lisa brought us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City where she taught us about the lives of the many emperors that resided in the ancient city. Lisa also arranged a rickshaw tour of where the “common people” resided during ancient times. The Forbidden City was forbidden to these “common people”, so it was very cool to get the perspective of how the two sides lived. As an example of how Lisa went above and beyond the scope of her job, she arranged for many of us to get professional massages in our rooms after long days of touring. We will all miss Lisa!

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  1. Learning to Make Dumplings

After a long day of climbing the Great Wall and touring the common people’s neighborhood, our final meal kicked off on a beautiful rooftop where we were taught how to make steamed dumplings. We surprised ourselves at how well they turned out. Chinese people make dumplings from scratch for special occasions, like the Chinese New Year. This seemed like a fun tradition and it was a ton of fun to learn. It was a wonderful final meal with the group.

I will mJustinTaubman Headshotiss China, our group, and the program!

 

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Reflecting on China Following the Adventure Challenge

By Justin Gordon

Dalian, Chian

Dalian, China

 

In 1985 at 60 years old my Grandmother decided to move to China to teach English. While she spent most of her six months in the country teaching in the city of Dalian located on the east side of the Yellow Sea, she did have a chance to travel throughout.  When she left, she even took a train from Beijing to West Berlin. I was only three years old at the time, but over the course of the last 30 years she has described her experiences in vivid detail a bit at a time. The China she knew was only about a decade past the turbulent “Cultural Revolution” period. She described streets filled with far more bicycles than cars. English speakers were difficult to find, even in large cities. Telephones capable of calling back to the U.S. were few and the cost was substantial. The primary means by which she communicated with my grandfather was by mail; letters could take up to weeks to arrive. Her depiction is of a country rich in culture and history, as well as one with a great deal of possibility, but a nation with a long way to go to realize it’s full potential. Continue reading

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Winning the China Business Model Competition

By: Tiffany Chang

L-R: Prerana Delal, Tiffany Chang, Justin Taubman, Shuichi Manabe, Brent Goldfarb

L-R: Prerana Delal, Tiffany Chang, Justin Taubman, Shuichi Manabe, Brent Goldfarb

I can’t believe the competition is already over and our trip to China is winding to an end…but another thing I’m still trying to wrap my head around is WINNING FIRST PLACE!!

My team and our business idea, Style Star, a personal stylist mobile app, took first place among some truly excellent competing models, and the Smith School once again is coming home with such great honor and such excitement to actually put our $3,000 prize money to good use in launching our app development. Terps also took 2nd place and an assortment of individual awards. Continue reading

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Entrepreneurship in China is on Fire

By: Justin Taubman 

After meeting with many successful entrepreneurs at some of China’s top start-up incubators and accelerators in Shanghai, it is clear that China is getting serious about entrepreneurship. Until recently, Chinese families have not been very supportive of their children leaving secure jobs to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. The most educated and wealthy families have always pushed their children towards traditional businesses, but that is starting to change. The Chinese government has realized the importance of innovation and the creation of new businesses and technology. While traditional careers in industries like finance, engineering, or medicine are still pursued by many, the government support of these initiatives has made entrepreneurial pursuits more accepted. Continue reading

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Adventure Challenge: China – In Country Prep and Customer Discovery

By Philip Webster

Conducting customer discovery for a product aimed at the Chinese market while you’re actually in China is an eye opening experience. After weeks of refining our business plan in the U.S., the chance to talk directly to potential customers has been invaluable. Yesterday Justin and I were fortunate enough to pitch an abbreviated version of our business plan to a delegation of business and educational leaders in the city of Bengbu. Afterwards we received a lot of feedback from students who attended the presentation.

Me and Vivian negotiating her intern salary

Me and Vivian negotiating her intern salary

One student, Vivian, came right up to me afterwards and told me exactly why our business wouldn’t work in China. When I defended our plan she continued to elaborate on exactly why it wouldn’t work and she convinced me that we did indeed have a few holes in our pricing scheme and our bring to market strategy. Luckily, Vivian is a marketing major and had a ton of great ideas on how to fix the product and market to young people in China. I’m hoping she’ll be the first unpaid intern for our company! (Vivian was also instrumental in encouraging our table at dinner to drink a concoction that I referred to as Dragon’s Blood, that began a series of hilarious and bizarre events that Justin blogged about yesterday.) Continue reading

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Greetings From the City of Bengbu

By: Justin Gordon 

We JUST departed Bengbu, China, and it is my pleasure to blog about this portion of our trip. We departed Shanghai early from the brand new Hongqiao High Speed Rail Station bound for the central coast of China. The High Speed Rail was an experience in itself. Honqiao Station reminded me more of an airport than a train station. That is no coincidence; it is collocated in Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai’s domestic airport. This combination made for an impressive inter-modal transportation hub the likes of which are rarely seen in the U.S. The train journey itself is essentially identical to a trip on the Japanese “Bullet Train”, except in China the trains are known as “Harmony”. At an impressive speed of 300 km/h (roughly 190 mph) we whisked towards Bengbu.

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It was a bit hazy with light drizzle as we arrived. We immediately traveled by bus to Anhui University of Finance & Economics. We were treated to yet another wonderful authentic Chinese buffet.  During the meal we had the opportunity to dine with a number of undergraduate students studying various business disciplines. Using their impressive English skills they provided us insight into what it’s like to study at a Chinese university. They also discussed what they hope to do in the business world upon graduation. I think the sense in the U.S. is that China is lagging the West in gender equality in the workplace. I thought it was interesting that the female students said they anticipate having just as many opportunities in the job market after graduation as their male peers. Continue reading

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Kicking Off the AdVENTURE Challenge: China – First Impressions

By Philip Webster

After a brief fifteen-hour flight, Tiffany and I arrived in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon. Upon arrival I was seriously questioning my decision to pull an all-nighter the night before we left Maryland. I was trying to reset my body clock on Day One of this trip and planned to be so tired on the plane that I would sleep the whole time on the plane and arrive in China completely ready for action. I don’t usually sleep well airplanes even when I’m exhausted, so I brought a sleeping pill to make sure I could get some quality zzz’s just in case. Unfortunately my desire to watch the in-flight movie, Night at the Museum 3 (don’t judge) counteracted some of the soporific effects of the Ambien and I only slept for about four hours. So, the first thing I did after arriving in this amazing country for the first time was take a nap.

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Catching Up With Dingman Venture Fellow Bethy Hagan

By Danielle Bennings

Second-year MBA student, Bethy Hagan was not the traditional MBA candidate. After completing her undergraduate degree in liberal arts at the University of Virgina, she wasn’t interested in the corporate culture and stumbled into a job at a startup in California. Although it wasn’t what she initially envisioned for herself, Bethy fell in love with the exciting startup culture on the west coast. Knowing she wanted to move back to her hometown of Baltimore, MD, she searched for top-tier entrepreneurship centers in the area, which brought her to the Smith School and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Bethy dove in head first during her first year as a Smith MBA. You may remember her as one of the guest bloggers from the AdVENTURE Challenge: China and as a member of the winning team at the China Business Model competition!

 

Grand Prize winning team, Wireless ISP, with Smith School and Peking University leadership.

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AdVENTURE Challenge: China – Preparing For the Competition

By Gwen Gurley

In less than a week, my classmates and I will be setting foot in China; a part of the world I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit. I have to say, it is going to be awesome.

This trip is certainly a lot more than a sightseeing adventure though. For the last seven weeks, my classmates and I have been meeting with our teams, researching the Chinese market, writing and rewriting business models, pitching our businesses and reaching out to experts and experienced business people, all in an effort to have the best business idea for China. Each of the teams is made up of four or five members and each team constitutes one business. In total there are 12 teams in the program with business models ranging from mobile travel apps, wireless internet service providers, and even a robotic cocktail making machine.

The members of the class are not only geographically diverse (we have classmates in College Park, Beijing and Tel Aviv) but they also have extremely different backgrounds. As you can imagine, this makes the process of building a business model with so many individuals extraordinarily interesting and rewarding.  Every other week the students based in College Park meet to hear each other’s pitches and make suggestions on areas of development for each business. Our pitches are also videotaped and posted so that foreign-based students can leave feedback as well.

While preparing for the AdVENTURE Challenge: China competition hasn’t been easy, it certainly has brought all of us a great appreciation for the complexities of international business and entrepreneurship. In these last few days leading up to the trip, the teams will be meeting to finalize changes in their business models and continue with their research. But once we’re in China the work doesn’t stop there! We’ll still have prep time to rework our businesses in between sightseeing, company visits and meeting with our Chinese classmates at Peking University, a.k.a. Beida (pronounced Bay-da).

Beida is one of the most prestigious universities in China and was the first modern national university in the country when it was established in 1898 to replace the ancient university of Guozijian. Not only is Beida considered a top research university, but it is also widely recognized for the beauty of its campus as it is situated on a former royal garden with lots of green open space, a lake, and plenty of traditional Chinese architecture. While there, we will meet with our Chinese classmates and review our business models one last time before the competition is held there. Then, we’ll compete head-to-head in front of local business professionals, VCs and entrepreneurs, a winner will be announced and prizes will be claimed!

It feels like we’ve already been on this trip for the last several weeks, and the culmination of the journey in China is going to be truly amazing. Wish us luck and safe travels!

Gurley_G-21Aug13-14 (1)Gwen Gurley is a 1st year MBA student focused on Marketing Strategy and Business Development. She is a former teacher and small business owner who decided to follow her passion for business and entrepreneurship to the Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is currently working with local DC startup Betterific as their head blogger and content marketer. Upon returning from China she will begin a summer marketing internship with Distil Networks in Arlington.

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