IBD Team YY Spring 2015 (Ariana Alisjahbana, Claire Bianchi, Patrick Scandling) worked with YY Inc.–a Chinese social media company in Guangzhou, China.
There is a Chinese saying that goes, “People in Guangzhou eat everything with legs–except for the table.”
We were pretty excited about China’s “foodie city” when we heard we’d be going to Guangzhou. We did not go home disappointed.
The three of us spent three weeks there for our IBD project with YY Inc. YY is a live streaming social media company with applications in entertainment, online gaming, and education. China’s technology industry is growing at lightning speed and YY is one of the main players. YY is listed on NASDAQ with a $3.5 billion market capitalization and has approximately 400 million users.
Our first day in the YY office, we experienced the classic cross-cultural miscommunication experience. We had been working with the YY team for a few months with a certain expectation of what the client wanted. When we met on the first day, it turned out the client expected something completely different! Rather than an international expansion strategy, the client wanted an overview of technology trends in Silicon Valley.
Luckily we were able to pivot quickly to follow the client’s request. We learned that meeting face-to-face–especially if there are language barriers–is key to this type of work.
The YY office gives a glimpse into life at a Chinese tech company
The internet technology industry is relatively new in China–YY is one of the companies that capitalized on the country’s growth. YY started as a live chat platform for online gamers. Now it has expanded to entertainment, online dating, and education. YY is perhaps best known for being the leader in monetizing virtual goods. The majority of YY’s revenue comes from selling virtual items such as roses, chocolates, gifts, and cars.
The YY office sits in contrast with the others in the Tianhe Creative Industry Park. You cannot miss it–there are two Teslas parked in front of the building every day and occasionally two Porsches.
Inside, YY has an open office floor plan. Perhaps the most unique aspect of their office culture is that everyone takes a 30 minute to an hour nap after lunchtime! One of us practiced this habit throughout our time at YY.
Guangzhou is one of China’s five largest cities and the culinary capital of Southern China
Most Chinese technology companies are in Beijing, but YY is one of the few headquartered in Guangzhou. It is the largest city in Southern China with over 14 million people. For Americans, Guangzhou is most famous for being the place where railway workers came from back in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, we arrived in late May when temperatures hover around 28-35ºC (82-95ºF). Humidity levels were between 90-100%. Guangzhou has the famous Chinese big city smog since it is the capital of China’s manufacturing province. The city itself is impressively clean with efficient metro and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. Taxis were also plentiful and cheap.
Traveling around China allowed us to see different sides of the country
We travelled to different parts of China on the weekends. Patrick and Claire went to Shanghai and Beijing with the IBD Shanghai team. Ariana went to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to see the pandas.
Every city was different from Guangzhou and had its own charm. Shanghai was perhaps the most westernized of the Chinese cities. Beijing was the leader in history and culture. Chengdu had the best nature and a laid-back lifestyle.
We enjoyed our IBD experience and look forward to seeing how the Chinese technology industry develops in the coming years.