Hiring Managers for Experiences They Have Had

Christensen and Raynor in The Innovator’s Solution argue against hiring managers for having ‘the right stuff’ and favor hiring managers who have had the right experiences tor the job that needs to be done. Maybe western venture capitalists are following this advice in China?

SHENZHEN, China — China still is a magnet for ambitious, Western-educated entrepreneurs coming home to start high-tech companies and cash in on China’s economic boom. Take Charles Zhang, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained founder of Web portal Sohu.com Inc., and Edward Tian, who earned a doctorate in the U.S. and once charmed Rupert Murdoch into joining the board of his Beijing telecommunications company.
But this favored class isn’t looking quite so favored, at least in the eyes of venture capitalists looking to invest in China. The trend is largely anecdotal, but for many “seed capitalists” poking around Beijing and Shanghai, slick Westernized returnees are out. Local, rough-around-the-edges entrepreneurs are in.
“The less English you speak, the better,” says David Zhang, a venture capitalist in Beijing with San Francisco’s WI Harper Group. He and other investors say locally trained executives often are more thrifty with cash and better understand local Chinese markets — and businesses that know how to tap them — than people who have been abroad for years.
“A lot of the returnees, actually, they have lost touch with China,” agrees Vincent C.H. Chan, a managing director at Jafco Asia, part of Jafco Co. of Japan.
Instead of courting Ivy League graduates with slick business plans, Messrs. Zhang and Chan are plowing money into no-frills Chinese start-up businesses such as wireless-services provider China Broad Media Corp. The company, funded by WI Harper, is the brainchild of Tian Song, an entrepreneur who went to college in Beijing and toiled in the state-owned telecommunications sector there. He says, through a translator, that his only visit to the U.S. was a brief trip to Las Vegas.
Jafco has helped to finance such entrepreneurs as Zhou Hongyi, who founded Chinese Internet search-engine concern 3721 Network Software Inc. Yahoo Inc., intrigued by Mr. Zhou’s technology — it enables people to use Chinese characters to search the Web — bought the company nearly two years ago for $120 million.
Some returnees may have “studied in a good school,” says Andy Yan, managing partner of Hong Kong investment firm SAIF Partners. But “when they come back, they think they know everything.”
One of Mr. Yan’s favorite home-grown success stories is Hu Xiang, a founder of SAIF portfolio company Mobile Antenna Technologies (Shenzhen) Co. Mr. Hu, 52 years old, is about as far from a polished returnee as one can get in China: He doesn’t speak English and missed nearly 10 years of schooling during the Cultural Revolution that began in the 1960s. Mr. Hu dug tunnels and later was a low-level factory worker, sometimes going hungry.
That Mr. Hu suffered during the Cultural Revolution and had to work so hard for his success, instead of leading a more comfortable life abroad, appealed to Mr. Yan. “We’ve been through so much,” says Mr. Yan, who had similar experiences. “The challenges now don’t seem so big.”

For the full story, see:
REBECCA BUCKMAN. “In China, That Ivy League Degree Isn’t Gold; Some Venture Firms Seeking Talent Favor Homegrown Entrepreneurs; No English Spoken? No Problem.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Fri., September 23, 2005): C1 & C4.

The Innovator’s Dilemma at the Movies?

Sounds like a possible example of Clayton Christensen’s where the incumbent (movie theaters) move up-market in response to the threat from the disruptive technology (increasingly high quality home entertainment systems):

It was Saturday night at the Palace 20, a huge megaplex here designed in an ornate, Mediterranean style and suggesting the ambience of a Las Vegas hotel. Moviegoers by the hundreds were keeping the valet parkers busy, pulling into the porte-cochere beneath the enormous chandelier-style lamps. Entering the capacious lobby, some of them dropped off their small children in a supervised playroom and proceeded to a vast concession stand for a quick meal of pizza or popcorn shrimp before the show.
Others, who had arrived early for their screening of, say, ”Wedding Crashers” or ”The Dukes of Hazzard” — their reserved-seat tickets, ordered online and printed out at home, in hand — entered through a separate door. They paid $18 — twice the regular ticket price (though it included free popcorn and valet service) — and took an escalator upstairs to the bar and restaurant, where the monkfish was excellent and no one under 21 was allowed.
Those who didn’t want a whole dinner, or arrived too late for a sit-down meal, lined up at the special concession stand, where the menu included shrimp cocktail and sushi and half bottles of white zinfandel and pinot noir. As it got close to curtain time, they took their food and drink into one of the adjoining six theater balconies, all with plush wide seats and small tables with sunken cup holders. During the film, the most irritating sound was the clink of ice in real glasses.
Not your image of moviegoing? Pretty soon it might be. At a time when movie attendance is flagging, when home entertainment is offering increasing competition and when the largest theater chains — Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment (which has recently announced a merger with Loews Cineplex) and Cinemark — are focused on shifting from film to digital projection, a handful of smaller companies with names like Muvico Theaters, Rave Motion Pictures and National Amusements are busy rethinking what it means to go to the movie theater. (B1)

BRUCE WEBER. “Liked the Movie, Loved the Megaplex; Smaller Theater Chains Lure Adults With Bars, Dinner and Luxury.” The New York Times (Wednesday, August 17, 2005): B1 & B7.

Disruptive Innovation Threatens Boeing and Lockheed?

SpaceXHeavyLifters.gif Source of table: online version of WSJ article cited below.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk, who says he is prepared to spend nearly $200 million of his personal fortune creating a family of low-cost, reusable rockets, recently landed an unexpected customer: the U.S. intelligence community.
Mr. Musk and his fledgling company, closely held Space Exploration Technologies Corp., for years worked on advanced technologies and less-expensive manufacturing concepts to build small rockets capable of launching commercial or government satellites weighing around 1,000 pounds.
But the new contract for a single, classified launch — shrouded in such secrecy that neither the spy agency nor specific type of satellite was identified — envisions construction of a massive rocket by Mr. Musk’s company, known as SpaceX. The launch vehicle is slated to be comparable to the largest, most powerful models built by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., but costing a fraction of the prices charged by the rocket-industry leaders
. . .
Mr. Musk doesn’t minimize the challenge of trying to win more government business while criticizing government procurement practices. “I think it’s extremely risky,” he says of his overall strategy, “but we’ve got to fight for our right to win customers.” If development of simpler, less-costly rocket alternatives is left to major defense contractors, he argues, “I can assure you it will never, never happen.”
. . .
In spite of skepticism and criticism of SpaceX, industry leaders are keeping a wary eye on Mr. Musk, with some vowing stepped-up competition against the industry newcomer.
Tom Marsh, a senior Lockheed Martin space official, told a space conference last month that his company “absolutely intends to pursue, and to pursue vigorously” the market for smaller rockets initially targeted by SpaceX.

ANDY PASZTOR. “For Rocket Start-Up, Sky’s the Limit; Surprise Contract Boosts SpaceX as It Competes With Boeing, Lockheed.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Thurs., September 15, 2005): B6.