Imagine eating breakfast face-to-face with Mark Zuckerberg or having a conversational with Larry Page about Google’s internet technology. This experience would no doubt be life-changing. The Palo Alto Entrepreneur Club members got the chance to experience all this with 30 successful entrepreneurs from China.
On the morning of April 16, 10 excited Palo Alto Entrepreneur Club members and Debbie Whitson, the club adviser, went to a breakfast forum with the group of Chinese entrepreneurs who were on a visit to Silicon Valley.
The breakfast forum, held at the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel where the entrepreneurs were staying at the time, was a historical event to both parties.
Lawrence Tian, the founder and Chairman of CIF.CO International Group and moderator of the forum, said that it was the first time in Yabuli history to meet with American high school students.
“It is a conversation between two generations,” Tian said.
Whitson reflected that the forum was very successful.
“I was really impressed by the meeting,” Whitson says. “I was really touched that the Chinese people were that interested in our students. It was more orientated to our students than I imagined.”
Students also felt that they were included in the discussions.
“First, I was scared and nervous with the idea that I’ll be sitting with many very successful entrepreneurs from China,” says Minyoung Kim, Sophomore and entrepreneur club member. “With their speeches and talks being geared toward our club, it was easy for me to understand, and I really learned a lot.”
The businessmen introduced the different skill sets needed in an entrepreneur and an investor, the difference between Chinese and American businesses, and the significance of starting companies. They also gave words of encouragement to Paly club members to motivate them to pursue entrepreneurship.
“The business culture [is different],” Victor Wang said. “In China, ‘saving face’ is the key issue, and people start companies for money. In the US, I see a lot of entrepreneurs who are more genuinely motivated by their passion for entrepreneurship and a will to serve people,” Wang said. “People have to sign a lot of law documents and be responsible for their actions here.”
Wang Chaoyong, the founder, chairman and CEO of ChinaEquity Group also gave his earnest opinion. He said that entrepreneurship needs to be fostered in a social environment where the school system encourages arts, sports and other nonacademic activities as opposed to only a lot of math and science. He encouraged students to take part in these activities because they foster creativity, which is the essence of entrepreneurship.
Many Chinese entrepreneurs emphasized how lucky Paly students are for living in Silicon Valley.
“Growing up in Palo Alto is a huge gift because this area has given you a good, curious mentality,” said Neil Shen, founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China. “Curiosity needs to be cultivated… This kind of curiosity is rare in China, as people there seem to only want to get rich quickly and don’t spend the time to think how to do things in a good, morally correct way.”
The businessmen said that they have faith in the students’ success.
“Any dream can be made into a reality,” Lawrence Tian said. “We as fifty-year olds see your huge strength and potential to keep growing. Our hope is on you.”
Paly club members say that they are satisfied with the meeting.
“I left the forum with a full stomach from the amazing breakfast, but more importantly with more knowledge and spirit of entrepreneurship,” Kim says.
“I had fun watching all the exchanges,” Whitson said.
According to Allison Zhang, sophomore and Entrepreneur Club president, this event was the beginning of a solid relationship between the CEF and Entrepreneur Club. The entrepreneurs invited club members to visit China this summer to learn about Chinese companies.
Zhang explains that the pursuit of entrepreneurship should not only be limited to the club, but that Paly students should all understand the importance of entrepreneurship.
“[Paly students] should know that the entrepreneur spirit of innovation, persistence and risk-taking is at the heart of human progress,” Zhang says. “I encourage all of them to do something entrepreneurial in their time at Paly, whether it is taking a difficult class and sticking with it or starting a new sports team, the world needs innovators, and I know Paly students will be part of the passionate youth who will change the world.”