iAsk x China Daily | Founding a startup at 46, what for?

iAsk x China Daily Founding a startup at 46, what for?

    Mar 07, 2019 2:05 PM  PT
iAsk x China Daily | Founding a startup at 46, what for?
author: iAsk   

He worked many years at CapitaLand's headquarter in Singapore, and left at the peak of his career at CapitaLand to return to China.

During his five years in Vanke Beijing, he increased the annual revenue from 4.3 billion to 20 billion RMB. After that, he left again to found a new company.

He explores and expands to new territory with his new company. As a company less than 3 years-old, it acquired or merged with seven competitors. Currently, It  has 90.000 on line members, manages a total space exceeding 170 thousand sqm across the globe, covering 4 countries, 7 regions, 37 cities, and expects to launch its IPO soon.

Mao Daqing's stories are stories about setting high goals for himself, achieve the goals and then set higher goals.

Story No.1:

When Mao Daqing first joined Vanke Beijing, its revenue was 4.3 Billion RMB. Five years later, Mao Daqing managed to change this number to 20 Billion. As an reward for Vanke's top professional manager, he received an annual salary of more than 10 million. 


This high salary concluded Mao Daqing's journey at Vanke. His departure was out of expectation, but it was within understanding. As someone who stays up late to write articles, who runs marathon on the frozen winter roads, Mao yearns for new excitements and challenges. He desires and needs to keep pushing himself further.

He used to explain it this way: "This number change helped me to reach a new level. However, the increasing revenue itself can no longer bring me more excitements and does not make me feel fulfilled."

In 2014, Mao Daqing wrote a business plan of five or sixlines on a napkin at investor Xu Xiaoping's dinner table. In 2015, the 46-year-old Mao Daqing officially became the founder of Ucommune. The past was reset, the new journey has started.


Founding at 46, what is your goal?


Mao Daqing: In the beginning, it was the summer of 2014, Mr. Xu was asking me lots of questions. Back then, we discussed that we need something new in the real-estate market, something more interesting. We were thinking about different approaches around the topic of real estate, such as asset management, content production or people's operation. But we did not come up with a concrete idea regarding what we are doing today, namely co-working space and the social platform around it.

Gloria Ai: Back then, you probably did not expect it to reach such a big scale as today?

Mao Daqing: Of course not. I think most of the great things happen by accident.

Gloria Ai: Do entrepreneurs really need spaces like this?

Mao Daqing: I think people still regard entrepreneurs nowadays like the ones from the old days, who went through tough times. But I think there are two things that are different for today's generation. One is that founding has become a lifestyle. These entrepreneurs did not found to improve their lives or to earn money, but they found to realize their dreams.

On the other hand, founding a company today is different because more resources are being shared together. There are too many cross-discipline collaborations and too much knowledge sharing. You need to learn a variety of things from different people. Therefore, founding a company today is very different, it is about making things happen. 


I like this sentence from Lu Xun: "You have strength and to spare; if you come to a dense forest, you can cut it down; if you come to awilderness you can plant trees; if you come to a desert, you can sink wells." This could also refer to the strength of entrepreneurs. When they come to a hill, they cut a road. When they come to streams, they bridge them. They create things out of nothing and turn stone into gold. This is what entrepreneurs do, otherwise, they are not called entrepreneurs.  


Story No. 2:

There are two distinct labels of Mao Daqing. One is the founder of UCommune, the other is a marathon runner. 

As a self-proclaimed non-athletic person, he started with 800m in the beginning to 2 to 3km, and eventually later one month, he madeit to his first 5k in his life. Nowadays, he runs regularly even in Beijing's chilly early winter mornings which can reach minus 16 degrees. 


6 years later, Mao Daqing finished 91 marathons. From someone who never ran, he now is a "rabbit",which is the informal name of a pacemaker or pacesetter, a runner who encourages and leads other runners to finish the race. This is for sure a stark demonstration of the skill and experience for any marathon runner.

Mao Daqing seems to enjoy the "from 0 to 1" experience — he gains fulfillments through creating things from scratch, such as running marathon, during his times at CapitaLand, Vanke and also the Coworking space.     

In other industries, companies usually go through 3 different development phases. They start off with a few stragglers, which turn into heated competitions at a later stage. And finally, M&As come along. The runner Mao Daqing seems to have speeded up the coworking industry and started M&A from early on. 

With less than 3 years of history, UCommune has already done 7 M&A deals. The most recent deal happened in October when Ucommune starteda merger with Fountown. Nowadays, Ucommune keeps a growth of 10.000 sqm permonth with more and more people joining Mao Daqing. 

All these cross-collaborations, what for?


Mao Daqing: I am someone who loves collaborating. This is part of my trait. Maybe because I read too much "The art of the war" or "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" when I was young. I think in today's world, things are not achieved by one single hero, but through many collaborations to accumulate individual wisdom and exploration collectively onto one thing. This increasedrate of development is not a linear function but much more complicated. It could be the fast accumulation of resources. For instance, if three forces are joint together, the effect will not be 3 times, but much more.

Gloria Ai: Did you face a lot of resistance during the M&A process?

Mao Daqing: It is okay over all. Because most of the firms are quite early-stage. Regarding so many M&As, maybe it is due to my previous working experiences. Back at CapitaLand, I have done more than a dozenreal-estate mergers. Coming back to Beijing after more than 10 years, my first project was also an M&A project.

Gloria Ai: So M&A is your go-to-strategy for growth?


Mao Daqing:  M&A seems to be a working habit of mine, including my later projects at Vanke. Projects such as Vanke Metropolis, Imperial 77 all came from M&A. It seems that, in the past 18 years, I have never stopped doing M&A. I always believe that cross-collaboration is a very good strategy to gain more collaborators.


Story No. 3:

All entrepreneurs in coworking space business around the globe are trying to solve one question: what is the difference between a coworking space and a sublessor? Mao Daqing is not an exception, and he has his own answer to this question: Value-add-services.

From his perspective, the main profit of coworking space should not come from rent, but enterprise supporting services such as financial, legal, human resource, marketing services. Additional income also comes from insurances, health checks, software or high-traffic advertising. These multi-channel incomes will eventually replace rent to support the whole industry.


Just like Mao Daqing went beyond his own limits with running Marathon, he is breaking the limits of Ucommune through investments. He led Ucommune to invest in 39 eco-system oriented enterprise service firms. From media to sports, from entertainment to intellectual property, all these investments are related to one thesis–make working more comfortable — "Not only physically, but also mentally, communicationally, and socially comfortable."

Ucommune observes the usage data of its tenants to find potential investment targets, and those firms will the directly serve other tenant firms. A whole ecosystem chain of coworking is formed under Mao' investments and entrepreneurial activities.


Investing and founding at the same time, what do you want to achieve?


Mao Daqing: I started working in 1991. Looking back, I have never been relaxed since then. I do not know if I am destined to be a busy bee, or it is just my personality.          

Gloria Ai: What kind of personality makes you think you can't take a break?         

Mao Daqing: To conclude I can't keep still. I have reflected a lot about myself after I started my own business. To found a company, you have to question yourself and your motivations a lot.           

Gloria Ai: Then what are your reflections?           

Mao Daqing: I did question myself why choosing this lifestyle I am living now. Why I was never idle in the past 30 to 40 years? Maybe because I do not want to have a break. I reached a basic understanding of what drivesme. It is from deep inside. Because I think I am quite a process-driven person, I am spending the time to invest in myself and my life. There is only one thing we have to invest, and one thing which is exhausted after its use, which is time, the times of our lives.          

Gloria: True. Your life is where you allocate your time.          

Mao Daqing: It is where your value is, the value of your life. Today's program is called iAsk Entrepreneur-turned-investors. When I read this title, I suddenly thought, what are the Entrepreneur-turned-investors investing in? With what means are we investing, and who are the targets? I want to say that, we are all investing on ourselves every day. And after it is spent, the time is gone. 

Today we sat here and chatted the whole afternoon. It means this afternoon is gone for both of us, in our lives. So I am quite touched that you gave this afternoon to me, and I gave it to you. Actually, we are investing everything for ourselves. And we do not know how long we can keep investing, and what the final results are. So there is no need to ask about the results. Maybe it is more important to ask yourself, after spending the time, you think it is worth it?