EachCloud is a translation tool for the cloud being developed at the Microsoft Research and Development Center in Asia, an accelerator program based in Beijing. It is one of several companies being accelerated in the R&D center, and it is the last of three companies we are profiling on this blog.
Back on July 4, one of three Accelerators in developing countries opened. Here is a photo montage of the opening ceremony. We have since run interviews with Wang Jun, the founder of iTestin app , and with Peng Fei Chen, founder of Atom and former CEO of MySpace in China.
BizSpark: What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?
Kevin Zhang: As CEO of a company, the major challenge is how to find the right people for your startup. Not everyone is good for a startup. In a startup, everyone has to be very hardworking and creative – it’s not like working in a big company, especially in China. In China, people have a huge pressure to chase after a salary and not a dream. Currently, we’re still facing this problem. We’re still hiring because people are constantly moving from job to job. People can’t work for a dream, especially in Beijing where living expenses are really high. True, there are many VCs here, with money, but there’s a difference between American and Chinese VCs. In the US, VCs might have a good vision and know what it means to invest in a technological startup, but China VCs want quick money. This doesn’t exist in a startup tech company – it’s a long term investment that takes years to build. Most Chinese companies don’t have this long term vision.
Another challenge is that Chinese people aren’t creative. They don’t have their own ideas; they copy others’. They want to copy people with success stories. IP protection in China isn’t very good either so far, so it’s a big problem. Even big monopolistic companies are copycats. It’s a shame.
BizSpark: How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?
Kevin Zhang: We have had a lot of correction for EachCloud (Jianke). When I first started having a vision for my company, I failed. We tried to create a cloud-based translation product, but after a while, we found that our product wasn’t a practical reality. It was too big. So we changed our idea. Now, our users can cut a part of any web page and translate as necessary.
My team was not as important as our users. Most of the time, founders are too self-confident. At the end of the day, they fail, but that’s too late. Customer feedback is key. We make decisions based on our customers’ needs. Customers are our best teachers.
BizSpark: What has overjoyed you in the past month?
Kevin Zhang: In the past two months, we have received our first seed investment so we had some money to accelerate our project.
Also, our acceptance into the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure was exhilarating as well. In China, people care a lot about the facilities. Before Microsoft, we were in a small apartment. It wasn’t charming, and candidates would often refuse to work at Eachcloud because we didn’t have a very professional office, and renting office space in Beijing is really expensive. That was a very big problem. Recently, we’ve been having interviews at Microsoft and candidates were impressed by the same we have to work with and the team members are so grateful for the Microsoft employee support and the environment and atmosphere. I love the work environment. And the filtered air!
BizSpark: When was the last time you fell in love with a product?
Kevin Zhang: I always fall in love with products. I believe that all entrepreneurs need to continuously fall in love with technology constantly. I saw a video and prototype of Windows8 and was so impressed. I fell in love. My company started creating a Windows8 app for Jianke (Eachcloud, just because I fell in love with the product. I also fell in love with the Asus 3-part device. It’s a pad, powered by your phone, which can be connected to a keyboard dock. It’s pretty handy!
BizSpark: Has starting your own company provided any answers about your life? Have you discovered something about yourself that you didn’t know before?
Kevin Zhang: I’ve lived in China for 35 years. I like computers, and I was a programmer for most of my life. But I love music, and I play in a band. For about 5 years, I had my own music studio. I composed and performed, and followed my dreams. But when I reached 30, I changed my goal. I didn’t want to isolate myself from the rest of the world. I had friends around the world, and realized that the culture I knew was too small – I decided to give up my music business and came back to the internet industry as a consultant to help people. I moved to Canada (Victoria) to work but also to learn English and Western culture. I found that they learn and think differently because of the different cultures. I had been educated in China in a certain way, but in Canada, I was so impressed by the different lifestyle and vision they have of the world. After 5 years, I wanted to do something different. I figure I still have 10 years to work. I have to do something big. I decided to make something that would change not only my life but everyone else’s life with cloud power. We need this exposure to outside cultures, especially in China. There’s a language barrier, which is further complicated by the Chinese government. Oftentimes, you can’t read anything directly; you can only read what the government wants you to know. Eachcloud can help with that. Also, a lot of information out there is garbage on social media sites like Weibo. A lot of great articles are lost in the garbage of existing Weibo, so people waste a lot of time. With Eachcloud, I hope to make a lot of good information available to the Chinese public so that Chinese people have the opportunity to become global citizens as well.