“Call me Jackal,” he said, and grinned.
The scene was the 198th floor of Get-Rich-Quick Square in Hong Kong. Their first meeting with venture capitalists. Jackal loved the way the announcement of his given name startled people, knocked them slightly off balance, especially when accompanied by the grin. His boss Jefferson, sitting beside him, was also uncomfortable with this introductory approach, but there was nothing he could do about it. His English name after all was Jackal. It was quietly pleasing.
The other people around the long boardroom table identified themselves. There were three staff from the venture capital firm, two men and a woman, all in sharp, starched clothes with neat, shiny hair. No nonsense. Then there was Jefferson Huang, CEO of MaoPortal, and his team. Jackal, MaoPortal’s marketing manager, Miracle Liang the Chief Operating Officer, and Stanley Chen, acting Chief Financial Officer.
The main seat on the VC side of the table, however, was still empty. Everyone unconsciously looked at it.
“Mr Daw will be coming in any minute, he had to take a call from the States,” said one of the VC people. “He’ll be here any minute.”
“No problem,” said Jefferson expansively. He played with the mouse attached to his laptop, flipped nervously through the Powerpoint presentation again, restrained himself with great difficulty from opening up his latest greatest fave computer game – SuperOuyangLand. It was a combination fighting, fantasy and history game that involved triads, police, army and various superheroes, and lots of little people who got caught in the action.
On his right was Miracle Liang, his COO. She had shoulder-length hair, an earnest expression and was wearing a grey business suit. She had met Jefferson at college in the United States, she from Dalian, he from Shanghai. They spent a lot of time together. She was in awe of him, he took her largely for granted. He spent a lot of time chasing after classy women who hardly paid him any attention, they remained friends. And round and round it goes.
They had graduated together from the MBA program at UCPB (Pismo Beach). Jefferson had no clear idea of what he wanted to do, although his basic plan was to stay in the United States and find a
way to become rich and influential there.
“I don’t know,” said Miracle. “I’m wondering if it may be better to go back to China.”
“No!” she protested. “Well, yes, a bit. I love it here in the States, but China is changing too. It’s not what it was when we left, you know.”
“So they say. In the People’s Daily,” Jefferson scoffed. “But the old order is still in place and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, even if they ARE hopelessly inefficient, by and large. Take my uncle, Lao Zhang, for instance. He and his factory wouldn’t last a minute in a free commercial environment such as the US of A. It’s all guanxi and the system, and there’s not very much room for new ideas and new companies as far as I can see. Unless they are willing to work within the system as it is. It needs someone to change it. ‘All this,” he added dramatically, “has got to END!’ Diane Keaton, Godfather 2.”
“You watch too many movies,” said Miracle. “China is messy, it’s true. But it’s changing faster than the States. It’s changing faster than anywhere in the world. And with things developing from such a basic level, it should mean there are lots of opportunities, especially for people like us with MBA degrees from the States.”
Jefferson shook his head. “I prefer the States. I’m used to the life here now,” he said. “‘I’ll be back – NOT,” he added, in his best Austrian accent with overtones stretching from Toronto to Pudong.
But it set him thinking.
He got a job after graduation with McKansey Associates, consultants to star companies which had lost their way. It was a good opportunity, and Jefferson was proud of his position. He worked hard. But he found himself to be uncomfortable with the sheer size and highly structured organisation of McKansey. And he began to notice that the good people around him in the company were beginning to disappear one by one. Often in the direction of companies that were involved with the Internet.
Then came holidays back to China. Miracle was on her way back to Dalian, so they took the same flight, and talked much of the way, about careers, business, the future. It had been several years since either of them had been back to China, and when they arrived, they were shocked and surprised. Shanghai at least really HAD changed. Many things, fundamental things, were perhaps still the same. But it was clear to both of them that a lot of progress was being made. Maybe Shanghai was a place to consider after all.