Designer, developer, and retailer of smartphones, apps and consumer electronics, Xiaomi ranked third in Fast Company’s 2014 list of ‘Most Innovative Companies’ – the only Chinese organisation to make the cut. Now the largest smartphone maker on the Mainla nd and nicknamed the ‘Apple of China’, Xiaomi could be a game changer. The company’s success could prove China is a strong importer and exporter, a producer of low-cost, low-quality goods, and a developer of innovative, high quality products.
Xiaomi was founded in October 2011 and has been growing rapidly since. In the first half of 2013, the company’s revenue reached RMB 13.27 billion, totalling all of its sales in 2012 – when it grew 150 per cent. In August, the organisation received a valuation of US $10 billion after its most recent round of funding. To put this into perspective, it has already matched Lenovo’s market value and doubled that of Blackberry. Xiaomi’s rapid success comes from its strategy of social media-focused flash sales, constant user experience adaptation, and profits based on software instead of hardware. Using flash sales rather than relying on traditional new product rollout methods, Xiaomi increases hype and demand for its products.
The company sells phones in 200,000 to 300,000 limited quantity batches directly to consumers via Sina Weibo, China’s 400 million-member equivalent of Twitter. Most new product releases sell out within an hour, but the Redmi model vanished in 90 seconds, with more than US $7 million in pre-orders. These small quantities allow Xiaomi to better understand consumer interest in products before the company commits to larger production quantities. By year’s end, many believe Xiaomi will be a top-five client of Foxconn, a major high-volume technology manufacturer involved with Apple products as well.
Just as Western companies use Valentine’s Day to capitalise on budding – or established – relationships, Single’s Day celebrates anoth- er special someone: me, myself, and I. Instead of an evening of flowers, chocolate, and gourmet cuisine, this holiday sees pyjama-clad consum- ers sitting at midnight in front of lit computer screens, hoping to snag deals from top online retailers.
Born in universities during the 1990s, the day has its roots in Chinese culture. The four “ones” in 11 November reminded students of the character for ‘bachelor.’ Translated, the word means ‘bare branches’; in China, the parents are the trunk of a tree that may or may not bear fruit.
Holiday folklore credits four bachelors playing the popular board game mahjong on 11 November from 11am to 11pm with the four columns card (11.11) always winning. However, this quirky coincidence did not become the year’s biggest shopping day until 2009, when e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba decided to cash in. Last year, 10 million shoppers visited Alibaba within the sale’s first minute. The subsidiary Tmall hit RMB 100 million by the end of minute number two.
After the midnight deals, singles kick off the next morning with four youtiao, deep-fried dough sticks, to represent the four ones, with a steamed, stuffed bun as the middle dot. For dinner, [men and women] will split the check; unlike Valentine’s Day, this is acceptable as it shows their independence.
“It is important to understand that innovation happens in many ways. We should not get hung up on thinking an innovation is a massive breakthrough. Innovation often comes in a series of steps,” recommends Kay Koplovitz, Chairman & CEO at Koplovitz & Co LLC and the founder of USA Network and creator of today’s cable television business model. Those most successful in entrepreneurship understand that regardless of where they were in their career, acquiring new skills was critical to the innovation process. On a day-to-day basis, they followed their passions on undefined paths, not expecting leaping breakthroughs, but understanding that each step would lead to new opportunities.
For an upcoming book, Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, top female entrepreneurs shared their stories on how they reached the top, developing the broad, yet specialized knowledge-base necessary to create innovation within their fields. Their anecdotes provide insight as to how aspiring entrepreneurs can educate and prepare themselves to start their own firms.
For Alison Lewis, named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in 2010 by Fast Company and founder of Agent of Presence, a fashion technology firm, she wanted to create unique experiences using fashion. Lewis realized her graphic design skills were not enough to support her passion of technology-based design. At the age of 28, she learned electrical engineering from scratch: “To step into electronic engineering, it was scary. I just really wanted to make stuff, jewelry that responded when loved ones were thinking about each other, or I wanted to make garments that when you hugged them, they responded to you. The power and the will to want to make something in a space where you feel free to want to make something, makes it a lot easier to learn.” The label ‘designer’ did not limit her, but instead she created an environment in which she could be whatever she wanted to be, surrounding herself with supportive and innovative creators in Parson’s Design & Technology program. This made her comfortable adding ‘electrical engineer’ to her repertoire.
What motivated me to join the editorial team of Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future, co-authored by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, was the real need for women to hear true stories about how other women strategized in their careers and rose to the top. One of the topics that has particularly hit home is the need to attend conferences and seek out mentors.
In my first job out of college as a branding consultant, to help our clients, we would look for ‘analogs,’ or how companies in different industries had overcome and tackled problems similar to those of our patrons in innovative ways. In my career, I search for ‘personal’ analogs, or people who have achieved goals similar to my own in order to study and understand their strategy and path to reach success. Repeatedly our ambassadors in Innovating Women: Past, Present & Future have spoken about how conferences have helped them find role models and mentors within their fields. Unfortunately, they also spoke of how too few women are taking advantage of these opportunities.
“For the first time in my life I went to the bathroom and noticed a big line outside the men’s room… I got into the lady’s room and found two girls in there, we all had the same reaction,” says Danielle Newman, founder of StartupByte, about her experience at Startup Weekend: “We were laughing hysterically that we were the only girls, a total of 4 girls participating in the event with about 80 men.”
As Research & Editorial Director for Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology , Van Nest acted as a contributing writer and project manager. She conducted research, fact-checked, and interviewed along with assisting in the management of a crowd-sourced discussion platform made up of over 300 female founders and tech professionals. To help the book launch, she also aided in the marketing and social media strategy. The book’s indiegogo page can be found here.