Derek Newberry

TV Hit Proves Sustainability Will “Win in China”

Win China 1One of China’s most popular programs right now is a reality-show called “Win in China,” a sort of spin-off of the Apprentice model only with minimal shady dealings and fortunately no appearances by Donald Trump. The basic idea is that 108 aspiring entrepreneurs battle to sharpen their business plans, prove their managerial talents and even endure some physical challenges to compete for the CEO position of a company and RMB 10 million of its stock. While many readers out there might be wondering how “you’re fired” translates into Mandarin (by the way, it’s “ni bei kai chu le”- yes, I actually looked it up), what is really interesting about the program is that it has brought some sustainability issues to the forefront that would not have gotten much attention several years ago.

As the original 108 competitors have been whittled down, they have received business consultation and confronted judges with private-sector backgrounds along the way. Significantly, partners of New Ventures China including Weija Ye and Catherine Cao (pictured above) were invited to discuss the importance of sustainable business with Win in China participants, highlighting the undeniable impact green investment will have on the country’s economy in the future. Catherine, who is also Director of Tsinghua Venture Capital had the honor of prepping the now 36 contenders before getting grilled by a panel of VC judges, who do not seem easily impressed. Actually, as I write this I’m realizing that Win in China is very similar to the process our contestants go through to prepare for the New Ventures Investor Forums, only we have yet to make any candidates prove themselves by climbing the Great Wall (I’m not kidding- read near the bottom of this article).

Win China 2

Personally, I was fascinated to see sustainable business discussed on CCTV (China’s biggest network) but if you consider the route the government has been taking lately, it is actually not all that surprising. As the country has entered an industrial phase similar to the US in the 1960s, China has been taking steps to ensure environmental degradation will not hurt economic growth. Thomas Friedman puts it much more dramatically: “Green technology will decide whether China continues on its current growth path or chokes itself to death. So green innovation is starting to mushroom in China.” These efforts have still largely remained in the public sector, though a few firms like Tsinghua Venture Capital have taken up the challenge. With a program like Win in China promoting the private sector element, we can only expect to see endeavors like Tshingua’s China Environment Fund become more popular.

This is an exciting moment for Chinese business; Weija is proud to note that the VC Judge panel for the TV show has selected several sustainable companies as finalists. Comcast won’t let me order CCTV so I can’t keep up with the latest, but I can only hope we see some entrepreneurs like Hao Zheng Yi from Yunnan Zhengdong in the final rounds. And for entrepreneurs stuck in the old, unsustainable ways of doing business? A respectful “ni bei kai chu le.”