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COVER STORY: First Solving Customer Problems. Interview with Eric L. Schmidt, Co-Founder and CEO, EventBank
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First Solving Customer Problems

Interview with Eric L. Schmidt

Co-Founder and CEO, EventBank

1833611316 400x600     本期封面故事我们将共同走近对中国市场有着透彻洞见的Eric L. Schmidt先生。Schmidt先生是EventBank捷会易创始人兼CEO,同时也是创业中国精英会(China Entrepreneurs)的创始人。这两个组织机构对中国企业发展都有着卓越的贡献。Schmidt先生在华工作生活已达15年之久,谈及中国在哪方面吸引了自己时,他说在中国生活十余年的时光和阅历都让他受益匪浅,并且亲历并参与中国过去十五年的变化在他看来也是非常棒的经历。



      Schmidt先生建立的两家公司各有千秋: EventBank是全球领先的市场营销自动化、互联网化、数据化、一体化平台型创新SaaS公司,在北京、香港和美国华盛顿设有分支机构。旗下有两款管理云平台:企业市场营销活动一体化管理云和社群组织(商会协会等)一体化管理云,帮助企业市场部和商会协会等社群组织实现活动管理、会员管理、多币种支付、CRM、EDM/Newsletter订阅及发送,以及更多功能。而创业中国精英会是一个国际性的专业组织,在中国一直不断致力于推动企业家成长。精英会根据企业家的需求,精心设计会议议题,定期举办活动,积极地邀请国内外杰出的成功企业家与会演讲交流并分享他们宝贵的经验财富,面对面为企业家解决他们所面临的实际问题,提供全方位的交流平台。这些都是Schmidt先生智慧和创意的体现。

     众所周知, 由于文化等各方面差异,外国人对中国存在很多的误解,比如在经商方面,外国人一直认为在中国做生意很难,那么这究竟是不是真的呢?在Schmidt先生看来,最初的时候在中国做生意似乎是比较难的,但是当建立了良好的人际关系后,做生意就会变得越来越容易。所以在中国做生意,重要的一点是要有足够的耐心。一般两年过后,营业情况就会起色,也就是时候为自己的公司做更长期的规划了。






eb banner events 640 Business TianjinEric L. Schmidt is the Co-Founder and CEO of EventBank, a cloud-based engagement management software company that is focused on delivering cloud solutions that transform the way professional communities enable and enrich relationships. He is also the founder of China Entrepreneurs, a network that counts more than 20,000 business professionals and has incubated multiple tech start-ups within the software, mobile and environmental industries. Mr. Schmidt is also an elected member of American Chamber of Commerce in China's Board of Governors.

IMG 6128 400x600What is it about China that attracted you more than all the other countries you’ve visited?
I think there are many great things about China and certainly when I arrived for the first time it was really about where China was and how quickly China was growing. With all the things that have happened in the last 15 years, it has certainly been an amazing thing to be a part of.

Why did you decide to start China Entrepreneurs rather than solely working on your business?
My first business in China that I’ve been part of was all challenges that we had on a regular basis. I found commonalities between all entrepreneurs trying to figure out how to do business in China and it really was something that we had to figure out. So that really was the inspiration to start China Entrepreneurs and to start growing a community of entrepreneurs together, so we could all succeed at the end of the day.

What were the major stepping stones that led you to develop EventBank?
As we continued to develop China Entrepreneurs and started the business itself it really became a challenge that we saw relating to organizing events. How do we help people to improve engagement with their customers, with their members, and is there a technology solution that existed out there? We were running around 100 events a year and we were not able to scale beyond that if we didn’t have the technology. Unfortunately, at that time we didn’t have the technology so we were doing so many manual things inside the organisation to basically create that environment.

EventBank has grown incredibly fast. How do you think that has happened?
I think that is by first solving customer problems. When we create a solution it was to solve the problems that we thought our customers had. The theory was right and then the second thing that came on top of that is our team’s dedication to solving that problem and really making sure that everything we are doing is what our customers need.

What would you change about the way you scaled EventBank if you had to do it all over again?
Obviously, we have made plenty of mistakes along the way, whether it was hiring sales people too early or spending money in early days on things that didn’t matter that much, but I think those are the things that you learn from to help grow as the business continues to expand, and certainly if we didn’t have that experience I don’t think we would be here. Would we change anything? Yes, I wish we had made different decisions in a different way, but you can’t go back in time and change the decisions that we have made in the past.

Event management Cloud from EventBankWhat led you to choose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and do you think that other prospective students should use your criteria?
RPI was a great choice for me. Most of my friends were going to very large universities, but being a smaller university, it really gave me a chance to develop skills that I probably would not have had, like the opportunities to get involved with organizations such as the student government. But looking at the selection process, RPI was at that time the number one environmental engineering school in the United States and that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to change the environment and improve it through great engineering and that was in the selection process on top of the list.

You have 7 values listed on EventBank’s website. Which of these do you think has been the most important in building both your company’s and your success?
I think being customer oriented is probably the number one priority. Without being customer oriented and customer focused in how we built our solutions, it is almost impossible to really be able to get to where we are today. I do not want to say second as obviously they are all important, but having a team that is collaborative is definitely important. Unless teams can work together effectively, you can’t get to a point where you are today and be able to succeed as an organization.

hl01Where do you see EventBank in the next five years?
Last year we have transited from being a very China-focused company to having operations in the United States and being in 16 countries around Asia-Pacific. In the next 5 years we will continue to be a global business and helping more and more organizations around the world whether it is chambers of commerce associations or corporate firms, helping them to better engage with their customers as well as members.

Where do you look for inspiration? It looks as if your early ventures were fuelled by a passion for sports – have you always looked to combine hobbies with business?
I think being an entrepreneur is always trying to do things that you are familiar with. As you start businesses, some succeed, and some do not, but at the end of the day working everyday with what you know will always make it easier to succeed. Looking back at some of the sports businesses we were involved with, obviously there were elements that we did not understand. But again, once you are passionate about something, you just start a business and it is just a matter of does it work or does not work, and if it does work, how you can continue to grow for the organisation to be successful.

What is the one thing that most Westerners don’t realize about China in a business sense?
Most people know that China is not an easy place to do business and it is very different from where people come from. But at the same time I think most people will be surprised to know that once you build your network it becomes easier and easier to be successful in China with whatever it is you are doing. With most of the organisations that we have seen, it is really about being patient enough to be successful. People who want to come in and make money in one year – it is very difficult. In two years, you can start doing that but China is a long-term business strategy and for people who are not willing to think it out, it is going to be a tough journey for them.

IMG 6214 600Do you remember any defining moments that set you on your current path?
At the end of the day it is about how many people help you along the way. I have had many great mentors who have helped whether it is this business or previous ones, who helped me learn things that maybe I was not doing right or things that I could do better. Eventually, business is about people and learning and continuing to strive to learn. I think that is extremely important to at least set you on the right path.

What is your role in AmCham?
I am on the board of governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and I was elected a little less than a year ago to the position. I did it because AmCham has helped me considerably during the time that I was in China and I felt it was time to give back to the organisation. Also I felt there were things that I could contribute into helping the organisation to be better, to grow and certainly advocate for American businesses here in China.

hl02What is in your opinion the biggest barrier for American and other foreign companies that wish to enter the Chinese market?
I think the biggest challenge at the moment unfortunately is the trend of nationalism of laws. Whether you look at the new cyber security law, the NGO law, a lot of new laws have made it more difficult for foreign businesses to enter the market. I think that trend is taking place over the last couple of years and it is unfortunate as China is trying to be a more global society. It is just a matter of how does that match up with the laws that do not help much to move forward. There have been some great things, but it has become more difficult for foreign countries to operate here in China.

What do you think is the biggest barrier that prevents China from creating its own Silicon Valley?
I think the barrier to create a Silicon Valley in China really starts with primary and high school education. Education is the most important thing to be able to build up people who are able to create innovative products and innovative businesses. You have seen some interesting things in the last five years that have been created in China, but true innovation really starts with an education system reform that China is pushing forward at the moment.

IMG 6132 400How do you build a balance between work life, personal life, and the hobbies you pursue?
In China I do not think that there is a balance between personal life and business, it is very mixed. Your personal life is your work, and your work is your personal life, and people need to enjoy what they do. It is not that it makes it more difficult but at the same time that is what makes China exciting. Everybody is working just as hard as you. Everybody has their own personal goals and ambitions, but everybody wants to make it better for their families.

Do you see yourself as a tech person or a people person?
Good question. I think at the end of the day, whether its business whether its people, I see myself as an entrepreneur in China who finds solutions to problems. Sometimes that requires putting the technology head on, and sometimes it requires putting the people head on. It’s a matter of what does it take to grow.

Our readers might also be interested in your bicycle tour from Beijing to Venice, Italy. Where did you find your motivation for such a fantastic undertaking?
Obviously when you are young, you can do things like that. When you have no commitments, long journeys are an amazing thing. But it really started from a group of Italians who had come from Venice to Beijing in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics. They happened to be looking for people to ride back, from Beijing to Italy, to trace some other routes. The political landscape was not the same when we were going back, but nonetheless it was an experience that I will certainly never forget.

What are your personal goals for the future?
First and foremost is to make EventBank successful and that is what we are working towards every day - making our team and the company moving in the right direction, so that we can do what we set out to do in making EventBank a successful global company.

You have substantial experience with venture capital and have founded several companies from the ground up. Could you share some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?
I think it goes back to what I said earlier, you need to be passionate about something. I see too many people who start businesses that they are not passionate about, but they see an opportunity that they are not that familiar with. Down the line when things get tough and maybe the company does not have any money, there are challenges all around… do you stick with it? Those who are passionate with what they do every day are the people that are determined to go through anything to make their business successful.

Can you summarize what kind of services does EventBank offer?
First, we call ourselves an all-in-one engagement management software platform. We transform professional communities with our technology.

Our services are provided as a software platform for essentially three kindsof organizations. First, for chambers of commerce and associations, we are the IT system for their CRM, their e-mail marketing tools, membership management as well as event management, and in some cases websites that we build for them.

Secondly for corporate firms, big and small, we help them to enable all their events with our technology, whether it is for sales and marketing or for procurement, we enable all their marketing operations.

And the last are SMEs who are looking for a platform that utilizes our CRM, event tools or our e-mail marketing. That’s a newer service that we have created for Asia and it has only been out for a couple of months since we have put that on the market. But at the end of the day it is how we serve different companies of different sizes with solutions that we have spent almost five years building.

The focus of that is in China?
We started here in China, but in the last year we have expanded and opened offices in the US, Asia-Pacific, and now we are making a big push beyond even Asia-Pacific to working with chambers of commerce and other organizations around the world.

I have seen that now you are spending much more time outside of China…
Yes, exactly… My time in China this year has been quite limited. This is probably the least amount of time in China that I have spent since I have been here. Last year I was also on the road quite a bit, but mostly to the US as we were getting our US operations set up.

In our interview, Mr. Schmidt shared his views on the current business environment in China, how he started EventBank and his other businesses, and gave an insight into his personal motivation and future professional goals. He also explained what he believes are the key factors that led EventBank to grow in the last couple of years. He talked about his connections with the American Chamber of Commerce in China and about the obstacles faced by China while creating its own Silicon Valley.


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