Time: At 22:00 on May 21
Group: Camp of Ten Questions with Fred Wang
Yonghao Luo: Smartisan founder, who once founded Bullog.com and Laoluo English training school. In 2012, he founded Smartisan Technology and completed the round B financing in two years. He is also the author of My Struggle and The Adventures of an Idealist, and so on
Fred Wang: Founder of Mars Finance, chairman of Linekong (HK. 8267), founding partner of Geek Founders and former Senior Vice President of Kingsoft.
The following is the sorted dialog script.
Fred Wang: First of all, congratulations to Laoluo. A few days ago, the release of the new product of Smartisan 515 was very successful. Smartisan became the first mobile phone manufacturer to hold the launch event in the Bird's Nest. The number of participants reached 37,000, and the ticket income exceeded more than 4.8 million.
Of course, a lot of people also worry about you, you had been flooded with the screen in the circle of friends, the news is omnipresent on the Internet, I know you was sweaty already in the event, but how can generalize the crazy complaints with a word of sweat only. As you have seen a lot of negative comments about the event, do you get hits in the face or decide to change the world?
Why is the business activity of a private entrepreneur drawing so much attention and controversy? How do you think about it? That's why I asked you to join my interview.
In my opinion, you're probably the most controversial tech-background entrepreneur active at the frontline in the market today. I have noticed that there were 740,000 followers on Smartisan's Baidu Tieba (post bar), and there are over 6,000 people who are concerned on the Hammer (Smartisan-dissing) bar signed up by somebody. On the day of the Smartisan 515 launch event, despite the continuous negative complaints from the netizens, the comments from the netizens divide into two groups that opposite one another as the fire and ice. There are more than 9,000 top comments followed your message on the weibo, most of which are still stand for you. The fact is, after this event, the controversy on you did not become weaker but stronger. Comments on the Internet focus on your company, your product, and even your personality.
Today, in the midst of all the controversy you've experienced on your way, I'd like to put aside the noise and trivia and ask you the following 10 questions about teamwork, innovation, brand, competition, and personal awareness, etc. Actually, I've been thinking about these questions, too. I have received a four-hour sharing from you at Sina entrepreneurship training camp in 2016 - the entrepreneurs have to face the ten relations". Today, these problems are mapped to the dialogues with you for the purpose of learning. The dialog serves as a mirror that reflects our imperfection and mediocrity.
Today's ten questions involve what I refer to as the "ten relationship". Let's get started. Please excuse me for any offence. Otherwise, scold me at the private dinner.
Fred Wang: As for investors. I'm also an investor in Smartisan, but I'd rather ask some questions from a public standpoint. At the end of the Smartisan launch event, everyone was very concerned about the financing of the Smartisan. Now, is Smartisan still in the state of financial tension?
Yonghao Luo: At present, it is OK and it has not been at loss already. We can go on our business without financing. However, due to our investment in research and development, plus our efforts for doing something different, our funding is still limited.
Fred Wang: I still remember meeting you for the first time in 2015. When I met you at a restaurant near your company for lunch, I was wondering because there was no established mainstream investment institution like IDG and Sequoia or newly-emerging unicorn catchers like Qiming Ventures or GRS Ventures on your investor list. You told the media that you've seen more than 50 investors in a month, but most of them don't understand what you're saying. My observation is that the investors who invested in you in the end mostly like and trust you. They don't actually put short-term ROI first when they receive your offer. To some extent, they are also Smartisan fans. Why does Yonghao Luo not get more mainstream VC favor as you have such market appeal?
Yonghao Luo: What we are doing is not a project at the wind gap. If we don't consider the big computing platform ideal (actually, they don't understand it, but this is normal), what they see is just a red sea. So it's natural that most institutions don't want to invest in me, which is consistent with the logics.
In addition, many successful mainstream institutions boast that they rarely miss important projects. In fact, in order to maintain their reputation, they often make some investment being asked by others for many times at the later stage where everyone can understand them and then boasts those investments in public.
Fred Wang: Smartisan has gone through a series of challenges and difficulties since its establishment. It was once almost bought at a low price. It is said that the acquisition failed because the acquirer could not pay the remaining money in small amount. Some of these investors, due to the nature of the fund and investment period, have the request to exit. But Smartisan's current path is a track that requires craftsman spirit and patience. How do you reconcile the demands of investors with that of the enterprise's long-term development?
Yonghao Luo: Some of our investors are optimistic about our long-term future and are well prepared for it. Some of them need to exit within a certain period because of the investment cycle. We will try our best to help them exit.
Sometimes, new investors want the previous shareholders to exit, and it is easy to deal with it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of troubles, and then we have to communicate honestly with them to achieve understanding each other.
Fred Wang: I have also completed many rounds of financing myself. I know that in traditional equity investment institutions, the relationship between founders and investors is always delicate. As if a lot of entrepreneurs can't handle this relationship, it's easy for them to go to two extremes. Either you lose your ego and get hijacked by investors, or you are too powerful to get the decisive vote. There are a lot of relationships thereof, and my personal experience is that it's important for entrepreneurs to be honest with investors, which is very important. Do you think you're being honest with your investors?
Yonghao Luo: Of course. We treat each other honestly with both investors and everyone else. Our problem is that we are always been too candid, and I cannot deal with it moderately in this regard.
Fred Wang: This question is about the partnership. As for a startup in any field, there are at least two people who have known each other before starting a business. Most of them are classmates and former colleagues. I find that intimate partnerships often play an important role in business development.
I’d like to ask you, is there a guy in the Smartisan team who served as your partner in the past? I've thought about this for a long time. It's hard to start a business, and sometimes it seems like it's just about finding someone to live with. The top partnership is a model couple or sibling. Are there good couples who get married before they were in love? Is there a sibling between partners who hasn’t known each other before but are willing to take responsibilities together?
Yonghao Luo: There were no such partners at all in the early days. Because I crossed a wide boundary, my old friends are basically in the cultural circle, such as writers, editors, journalists, publishers and the like, as well as former colleagues in the English training courses. As a result, I started my business with colleagues much younger than me. At that time, what was more tragic was that I did not dare to tell them even under great pressure for fear of frightening them. I'm afraid they would know there was something I can't deal with.
It is much better now. After that, Dezhou Wu, Jinzhou Peng, Ying Miao and Hongxia Cheng joined the Smartisan successively; I can communicate with them and listen to their opinions with confidence. I don't have to pretend that I can get everything done.
Yan Tang once told me that if all the people are obediently listen to the boss, no one dares to raise objections, and you have no fear that the company will be very troublesome after someone leaves; the company would probably have problems sooner or later. So I've been very anxious in the first few years, and it's much better now.
Fred Wang: Dezhou and Jinzhou are both from Huawei and very honest as I contacted them before. Furthermore, the partners I understand should have a clear and strong character at core while giving full play to the strengths of the partners. You have a strong personality and there is no problem for maintaining a strong role at core, especially you have advantages in aspects of branding, marketing and designing, but what do you do to give full play to the ability of your partners? For example, who is the partner that helps you the most in terms of technical ability?
Yonghao Luo: I did nothing to exert their ability. Partners I found are far better than me in some aspects, and I invited them to join us because I couldn't make it in that aspect. So I give it to them. They know that responsibility lies entirely on them, which is the best motivation.
In terms of technical ability, the one that helps the company most is of course our COO Dezhou Wu, head of product line and research and development.
Fred Wang: This question is about innovation. To our great surprise, at the launch event on May 15, 2018, you only took less than half an hour to introduce Smartisan R1 mobile phones but nearly two hours to introduce Smartisan PC workstation TNT, which is a very imaginative and even bold product that also drew the biggest dissing points of the event. I listed the main points: first, the price is too high. Second, it looks like a Surface Hub very much. Third, do we really need a workstation? Fourth, operating a PC with voice might turn an office into a vegetable market. So, what do you want to respond to these points? Please speak it out directly.
Yonghao Luo: First of all, the core of TNT is not the 10,000 screens but the revolutionary operating system. The problem doesn’t rely on whether our screens are expensive or not. Because our own version of the Smartisan workstation that made at all costs, our partner and manufacturer will release a full range of products from 500 Yuan to 5,000 Yuan. So no matter what your budget is, there's always a version for you.
Second, I’m really sorry that it looks like the Surface Studio. The Smartisan station is the first generation of TNT conceptual phone completed in six months, which is very short cycle. Therefore, we found a supplier who had made a similar rotary shaft scheme of the base, and made one in the fastest time. Subsequent iteration versions will look very different.
Third, when everyone used the carriage, the whole world thought the man who built the car was crazy. When everyone uses the keyboard, the whole world thinks the mouse is a toy. The people who are trying to change the world are the people who are not doing the right thing.
If you try to change the way people machine interaction, you can increase productivity by 30 to 40 percent, but nothing is changed. If the work efficiency is really improved by 300 to 500 percent, it is not an improvement but a revolution. When the revolution approaches, the dumb swashbucklers who scoff at the phonetic manipulation will be relegated to the dustbin of history.
The entire evolution of human tools is a history of the triumph of intuition over non-intuition or of low learning costs over high learning costs or of convenience over inconvenience. Unless the intuition, low learning costs, convenient tools and methods greatly reduces the productivity. Otherwise the results are not in doubt.
The 300 to 500 percent increase in productivity is enough for everyone to wear headphones, enough for employees to take work home; enough for every boss to cut off the work space... It’s not surprising that lack of a boss experience limits the imagination of many people, who should have been employees at least.
After the launch, what many people debating was not whether the system would enhance efficiency by hundreds of percent but whether the office would become a noisy vegetable market This is roughly equivalent to the fact that after invention of the automobile, those people who have the horse and carriage in the mind were discussing whether the car motor was noisy or not, complaining that the car still need oil, reminding horse dung is actually has other purposes. In their eyes, "the horse body is full of treasures".
Another frequently asked question is about TNT, how can you use TNT to address the privacy issues that people heard? It's a strange question: when you're calling on the phone, someone hears you on the side. As a normal person, you don’t have to be taught at all and you know what you can say in the public and what can't. And how much privacy in the work you do with your computer every day? What does it matter if the person next to you hears only a few words, except a porn writer? Especially when productivity increases by several times.
Just a moment ago, a teacher said, he speaks slower than typing. I believe he is not typing fast, but has a barrier in using the spoken language.
Fred Wang: Since its establishment, Smartisan Technology always has inspired innovation no matter what twists and turns in the process. For example, the "lightning capsule" of the Smartisan phone of the previous generation, and One Step and Bigbang in even earlier days, as well as Smartisan OS with a brand-new operating interface. Does the latest released Smartisan R1 phone have any innovation or breakthrough? It seems that the public hasn’t seen it. I don't think you give most of the time to your phone. But let's be honest, the whole smart product launch event was less frenetic than it was a few years ago. Is there a bottleneck for innovation in the entire smart phone industry? Have you ever thought about doing blockchain phones?
Yonghao Luo: Our innovative breakthrough on software is explosive. There is not only one or two innovative software or features in my phone, but also a revolutionary desktop system in it. You can buy just a dedicated touch screen consisting of hundreds or thousands pieces and get a powerful computer that works far more efficiently than a PC/Mac.
I am very familiar with the smart phones industry, and there is bound to be a bottleneck in innovation. But big manufacturers don't really care about it because what makes them to succeed is not by innovation anyway. As for blockchain phones, we will definitely make it.
Fred Wang: This question is about design capability. In 2017, you said at the Smartisan Pro launch that M1 is a shame in the history of Smartisan's industrial design. Why did you say that? However, I have learned that M1, which is the "shame of Smartisan's industrial design", has been sold well in Smartisan products. Why has M1, which is seriously failing in industrial design in your eyes, been recognized by the market and consumers? Is the anticipation at odds with the market reaction?
Yonghao Luo: M1/M1L is not so successful. It has been sold in hundreds of thousands of units. The media comments and consumer acceptance were good when it was put in the market, but it was not a successful product.
Generally speaking, the judgment logic of the scientific and technological media is relatively pragmatic and simple. If you pile up sufficient materials and balance various indicators, everyone will say that you have done a good job in case there is no serious mechanical damage. That's why so many very mediocre products are generally spoken highly by the tech media.
Our products were not recognized by them in the early stage mainly because of insufficient R&D and production capacity at that time. Therefore, our products always have some defects. Of course, we are totally blamed. And we put in efforts to do the innovation and differentiation of user experience, so we were recognized and awarded with many international gold and silver medals due to our achievements in the design, and received a number of very loyal supporters. What’s more, this product actually has a large group of audiences in the young people who love culture and arts, but it is difficult to understand and puzzling for most of the science and technology media,.
When I don't provoke tech media antipathy in a high-profile way, many of them, even when analyzing our products objectively and dispassionately or even in a friendly way, find those designs and innovations insignificant. In essence, the conflict between us and these tech media (either in personalities, ideas or behaviors) comes from two very different worlds, and there is a small chance of an accidental encounter of two species of humans that should be perfectly missed, which has led to embarrassment.
You can imagine, if we are the start-up dealing with solid wood or ceramic objects, or some types of petty bourgeoisie prints, even if my character is as high-profile as twice in public, even if our products are all kinds of small problems limited by various conditions and experience when we just started, it wouldn't be scolded by all kinds of products critics in such way as long as it has the extremely pretty design, novel & creative innovation.
The meaning of "shame" is also widely misunderstood. I say the M1/M1L is a shame in the Smartisan's design because of the various problems in the research and development process, which eventually forced it to be modified more and more like the iPhone. As an award-winning, industrial design-driven company, it's a shame for us to make a phone that looks like an iPhone on the front. But that's not to say it's ugly. Actually M1/M1L looks pretty good, and it is better than most phones of the same period.
Fred Wang: It's true that Smartisan products look good. It is said that you personally believe in "symmetry aesthetics". Taking Smartisan T1 as an example, the power button is designed to be the same size and round with the headphone jack at the top for the symmetric purpose. What is more remarkable is the design of hidden sensor, which is cleverly hidden inside the call receiver, making the front side of the device very clean. So you were conferred with the gold award of iF international design for T1. The slogan you used in advertising the Smartisan U1 is that "it is so beautiful as if not powerful," which is still impressive. Do you agree with some people who said that one of the most successful things that Smartisan has done in branding is simply a higher pursuit for aesthetic design than its peers? Some people say, can it be "beautiful more than powerful"? Would you be angry?
Yonghao Luo: Outstanding achievements in and pursuit for aesthetic design is not only our effort and work for brand building and for "higher" pursuit, but an important part of our enterprise gene.
Imagine if the Apple tries to turn it into a technology-driven company with into a very earthy, geeky and engineering-based brand, and Microsoft tries to become a design and product-driven company with a cool, characterful and classy brand, which is definitely an embarrassment.
The essence of industrial design is to make a product work better for the specific people it serves but not just look good. Looking good is important to some groups, and the appearance is a part of what makes a product "work better". For some groups it is not important at all, and a good appearance is probably not a part of a product's "better work", at least not an important component of the product.
Fred Wang: This is a question about employee relations. Shortly before the launch event, you joked on Weibo with an employee named Xiaochuang, saying that he had no intention of working on the eve of the platform revolution and was intent on investing in cryptocurrencies, but his earnings were far lower than those of you who were so focused on working and leaving investments behind. I said that you earned $30 million from the investment of $1 million, is that true? I guess there's an element of joke at both sides. However, I'm also curious about your relationship with employees: how many employees are Smartisan fans before entering your company? Once they joined the Smartisan, they would have some practical problems to be corrected, which is normal. Like some investors, I know many employees are opting for more stock and less payment because they are bullish about the prospects of the company going public, which might take a longer time. How do you build long-term and realistic motivation for your employees?
Yonghao Luo: It is true that I bought the cryptocurrency. In the early days of Smartisan, I'd follow my friends' bluster and invested in some money. Then I'd go back to my work, and in the end I'd find that $1 million had become $30 million.
I don't like speculation, so I won't spend any energy on currency speculation. And I won't consider making an ICO before the relevant national policies are officially issued. But I believe that blockchain technology can change the world, so we have been actively studying the potential application of blockchain technology.
Most colleagues at early stage were my fans or Smartisan fans, but now there are not so many. If I'm not overly narcissistic, I believe that the part of their disappointment in me is not because of my personality, of which I'm proud.
I will study hard and improve with fear the parts of their disappointment in me. To be frank, our concrete efforts to encourage and motivate our colleagues to strive in the company are far from enough, and our combat effectiveness has not gone wrong so far. I believe it is sustained in large part because of what is called "correct values and lofty ideals and goals".
Fred Wang: You once said that you are more nervous than the employees when they greet you in private. Do you often talk to employees in private? How do you communicate with ordinary employees? Do they know exactly what you want?
Yonghao Luo: I'm usually afraid of talking to strangers, so it becomes a small problem when there are too many people in the company. In addition, it would make me feel guilty and embarrassed when I saw strange faces smiling and greeting me and I also knew they were colleagues of the company but I did not know them. All in all, the problem has never been solved.
I don't talk much to my colleagues in private except in work. In the early days of my business, I used to like to work overtime and go to have a night snack with them. Later, my wife warned me that it was silly for the boss to think that employees would like to have a late night snack with him. I thought it was a profound insight into human nature, so I dare not to do so in later time.
It's common for managerial level to hold a meet first and then distribute it to divisions to enable all employees to know what the company wants, but sometimes we think it's not the best way.
Unlike the expectation by the outside world (a lot of people mistakenly think I'm holding a plenary session every day to brainwash my colleagues), I rarely do a group talk inside the company. I might say a few words at most at annual meeting, but that is also the suffering to me similar to the launch event.
One of my favorite things to say at the annual meeting is, "okay, my speech is over. Please help yourself to eating and drinking." My favorite unit at the annual meeting is to give red packets with mobile phones. This is the lowest cost method that human beings can invent when a group activity needs to be active. It is so great that it works faster than alcohol.
Fred Wang: This question is about the media opinion. After the launch event was over, some media said that this may be the biggest gap between the expected value and the actual value of public opinion feedback before and after the event. In your opinion, what is causing the media to have a low opinion on the event? What do you think the media focuses on most? How much do you rate this event on a scale of 100? How would you rate your behavior on the day?
Yonghao Luo: I actually had a good feeling for this launch event. In 2014 when Smartisan T1 was released, the public opinion response was also like this. This may be our traditional culture, where anyone who was at high profile was bound to be destroyed, as we and Pavlov had anticipated it (Editor's note: Pavlov, a Soviet physiologist, proposed the idea of conditioning).
As for our hype preceded the launch event, even if I had launched a rocket that night, people would say that Elon Musk had already launched it. Why are we so high-profile this time? Half because we feared that the Bird's Nest would not be filled with audiences and the other half, you'll know at our next event.
I think most of the media are concerned on the click rate other than somewhat points. As for "we media", whether their editors and reporters are happy themselves or not is more important than what has changed in the field of technology and what has changed, which are expected. Of course, due to the serious shortage of time and our first large-scale event, there were many small failures and incidents on that day, so the overall performance was 70 or 80 percent of our real level.
Fred Wang: Some of your characteristics have been summarized by "WeMedia" (I don't know if it's Smartisan-dissing or not). 1. Be passionate about hitting yourself in the face. You once said "if the Smartisan phone is priced at RMB less than 2,500, I'm your grandson," and as a result, the Smartisan phone was sold at the price of less than 1,000 in the end. You once said that "the gouache system is the favorite color of smelly hillbilly", but there is a pink Smartisan phone in the market. 2. Like to blow your own horn. You once said "There's no problem to defeat the Apple after we've done two or three generations of products," "It was bound to catch up with and exceed the Apple after Jobs died sooner or later. I hope the Apple doesn't go downhill before we rise, otherwise it doesn't make sense to win." Do you think you have the character of receiving complaints of media?
Yonghao Luo: "if it's sold at the price of below RMB2,500, I'm your grandson", RMB2,500 refers to the price at the time of phone launch, not the price at which the phone was forced to sell with discounts when the company was going to close down due to the accident. There was no gouache-colored phone in the first Smartisan generation. It's just that some of the images on the Internet look very similar, and that red version is actually a flesh-red closer to Airbnb, not a pink one.
Of course, it is not possible to completely defeat the Apple in business. But in terms of product, we have already surpassed iPhones in many aspects. If we take the price factor into account, our product is far better than iPhones. Because of lack of people, money and resources, as well as I’m good at viral transmission, I will certainly say some braggadocio and joke, but a lot of widespread wordings are not the truth. For the hammers, the truth is not important.
To hit me and soothe themselves, the hammers often pick up a vegetable leaf and say they found the knife. In our traditional culture, my character, of course, is an outlier that can easily be blackened. This is my fate, and I'm not happy or sad about it. I understand that they get angry around me helplessly, or feel relieved by waving a vegetable leaf. But I have my work to do and don't care much about it.
Fred Wang: This question is about the partners. Jun Lei said that the mobile phone is essentially a "seafood" business, with a huge amount of cash and needs to be ordered in advance because it has high requirements for inventory turnover; a little carelessness means the abyss. In 2016, MI encountered shortages of products for two to three months. After that, Jun Lei personally took charge of the mobile phone supply chain. He found more than a dozen of supply chain talents, and set up a joint staff team of three departments of supply chain, hardware product and sales. After making the Smartisan phone, you also once thanked the supplier for not coming downstairs with the slogans. How do you convince vendors to support you in the most difficult time?
Yonghao Luo: It's a shame that I personally didn't do anything particularly useful to convince them to support us. It's a credit to our supply chain team for doing a good job, mainly the leaders of Dezhou Wu and Minshan Yan.
In addition, I think we are very lucky that there are so many suppliers who understand and are willing to help us survive the difficulties, such as President Zhou of Lens Technology, who gave us incredible trust and help when we were in the most difficult situation. There are also many outstanding companies in the industry, such as Qualcomm, Samsung, Synopsys, Innolux, Sunny, etc., which have always given us the best support and help at all time in regardless of our order volume, and encouraged us to stick to the path of differentiation towards success, which is what we always remember.
Fred Wang: In addition to the mobile phone field, Smartisan technology is developing the Smartisan ecology. Some netizens have previously revealed that you personally inspected the MI store and learned from them. In 2017, it was very difficult to develop the Internet phone brands. We have witnessed the LeTV’s death and 360 mobile phone struggle. It’s particularly notable that you keep on learning and iterating MI mobile phone, getting rid of the imitators, and thus coming out of crisis, which forming the ability of competing with the solid MI ecology. Would Smartisan launch the router and ecological products, such as Smartisan TV just like MI does? What is the positioning of the Smartisan ecology?
Yonghao Luo: We have learned a lot from MI indeed,.But compared to their invincible cost performance route, we prefer to do some mid-range or high-end smart hardware products except for those at luxury level.
We've made the best air purifier in the world, and the fact that it's "best" is said by the media. We'll make the best humidifiers, new fans, travel cases, smart speakers, etc., later. We have no plan to make a router and TV set at the moment, but we don't rule out doing it when appropriate.
The positioning of our hardware ecology is high-end and intermediate intelligent hardware in the era of consumption upgrading, and perhaps some non-intelligent hardware will be made later.
Fred Wang: The advertisement of a few major mobile phone manufacturers is given priority to stars, and even the advertisement of MI is also omnipresent. If Smartisan had money, would you sponsor “The Rap of China," " Street Dance of China" or put the ad on the Tik Tok (Douyin)? Who would you choose if you picked a celebrity for Smartisan advertisement?
Yonghao Luo: Of course. If budgets are enough, we want make billboards everywhere in public places, such as on the websites, TV, and apps. In addition to helping us branding and selling products, they will also significantly improve the appearance of the city, because we are a design-driven company.
To match the tone of the brand, we may find some celebrities and public figures with enough popularity and attitude, such as Shu Pu, Edison Chen or Chris Lee, etc. We also seriously consider Zhiqiang Ren, but we’re afraid that he will not accept our invitation.
Fred Wang: This is a question about the competitors. Nowadays, the Smartphone market is increasingly saturated; as a result, consumers will not draw fanatical attention to mobile phone product launches any more. In the past, Apple, MI and Smartisan weren’t in the shortage of highlights at the launch event. Obviously, it would not be cool for the smart phone launch event, which becomes greater and greater aesthetic fatigue of the public. How will Smartisan face the current market competition as the brand that has lower market share in the Smartphone market?
Yonghao Luo: The whole industry was obviously down in 2017 and Q1 2018, but we are still growing. We are different from or even better than others. It's the belief that must be the ultimate human need. So we didn’t adopt any tactics, but stick to our original invention.
Wealth and resources are their friends now, and time is our friend. As for the launch event for the mobile phone industry, I…I wouldn’t speak it. There's no need to start another war of words just because I tell the truth, you know.
Fred Wang: In my opinion, you should never look for competitors who are too low. If you decide to fight for survival, you’d better to find a competitor with big conception and worth fighting with you and learning from it. You used to think of apple as a benchmark, and you wanted to be a company like the Apple. But before the May 15 event, you said that iPhone without the soul would be crazy to copy the Smartisan products. I'm a little surprised. Do you think the Smartisan has surpassed apple in product design?
Yonghao Luo: I'm also surprised that as our investor and former product manager, why you didn't realize that our product design surpassed iPhones in many aspects.
When I had a trip to the Silicon Valley and Seattle before the event, and showed it to the masters with tech background and one of them said, "Did you register an international patent? You should be quick, and I bet the Apple will copy your products completely when it's finished. After all, it's not that hard to get around interactive patents", I don't doubt it at all.
Fred Wang: Michael Porter mentioned one of the six factors that affect the competitiveness of a company -- the strength, vitality and capability of its existing competitors: are there many competitors? Are they well-capitalized? Are they clearly aimed at you? Have you done any careful research on the above points? You once said, “besides the shifts of parameters and hard work, frankly speaking, I don't really care about what they're talking about in the industry. I just care about what we're concerned on. We're not paying much attention to the industry trend. We judge whether a product is popular or not from humanity perspective rather than the market trend perspective.” Don't you really care about the competition? A few years ago, Huawei consumer BG Chengdong Yu and his colleagues adopted the strategy and tactics of close watching the rapidly rising MI phone. However, Meizu, which once had a strong design advantage, seems to have less and less attention although the boss has the noteworthy conduct and independent character in the behavior style.
Yonghao Luo: No, I do not care about it really, except for the supply chain and new technologies as also are concerned by them.
Fred Wang: This question is about the families of entrepreneurs. During the May 15 launch event, you tried to send a message to your wife while demonstrating "Bullet Message" on a TNT workstation, thanking her hard work in the past 6 years and you would go back home yesterday . You rarely mention your family, and admit that you owe your wife a lot after starting your own business. How did you spend yesterday (May 20) with your wife?
Yonghao Luo: I was on a business trip yesterday, and my wife was at home alone. Entrepreneurs like us who devote ourselves to our own businesses should go to hell if we assess our performance in the family.
Fred Wang: I really don't know how to ask other people about family issues, but I think as long as you start a business, you have no excuse to rest, and you cannot appropriately balance the relations between your undertaking and family. Therefore, it’s hard for you to live happily as the ordinary people. You summed up your three and a half years of entrepreneurial experience in early 2016, saying that the rest of your life will belong to your company besides your family in case no accident happens to you. How do you balance your family and company under such high pressure of work nowadays? Do you have any tactics?
The market competition is more and more intensive in China and the mental pressure of entrepreneurs cannot be imagined by onlookers. Every Chinese entrepreneur who seems to be successful is Dayu, a famous Chinese ancestor who devoted himself to his task of controlling the flood and spared no time to go back home even he passed by his family. I'm beginning to believe that it is somewhat practical for couples starting businesses together at least they have the common goal. In the Water Margin (one of four famous Chinese classics), Zhang Qing and Sun Erniang operated a mom-and-pop restaurant, which is much better than Song Jiang and Yan Poxi who undermined one another.
Yonghao Luo: They cannot be balanced completely unless you retire or resign from a leading post.
Fred Wang: This is a question about how we view ourselves. Those who actually did not have much contact with you have their impression of you are mostly the critical teacher of Mr. Luo because you did not say proper words but break their refrigerator. In the past few years, people familiar with you have seen more of your increasingly elitist, at least in technology and design. Your advocating and devotion in design and aesthetics are praised highly by young people of one generation after another. Your personalities of unyielding and forbearance in tough life drew a lot of critics by the public. It is so funny as long as you open the mouth to speak something, combined with the exquisite design thought. What do you think of all the labels that people put on you?
Yonghao Luo: In the early days of Smartisan Technology, I was always surprised by their various postures. After six years, I was not surprised to see anything.
People can only live once in the world. So, without harming the interests of company, I'd better stay true to myself in regardless whatever label they stick on me.
Fred Wang: What's your biggest change in your transition from an English teacher to an entrepreneur? What hasn't changed in the transition? At which stage of your life did you enjoy it most?
Yonghao Luo: There are a lot of changes and big progress as well. The big change that I remember is that, as a person who seek revenge for the smallest grievance in nature, can put up with all kinds of my opponent's provocations and humiliation for the interests of the company and for my ideal and goal, which let me have a feeling from time to time that a martial-arts completely ignore small bludgers.
Fred Wang: I observed that entrepreneurs with engineering background like to control others. In the fields of Internet and even in the science and technology, successful entrepreneurs with engineering background do more and speak less. In an engineer's mind, the more you get involved, the worse it is. He has a lot of bugs waiting for you and you need have a professional team to keep up with him. You see Qi Lu, who did so many things personally in Baidu as CEO, had to resign from Baidu only 16 months later. The entrepreneur with teaching background likes to correct the wrong doings of others besides self-criticism. They are more concerned about the truth, and often have forward-looking insight to the things. The entrepreneur of great achievements in this aspect includes Jack Ma, who talks about the enterprise value all the time. But, the entrepreneur of military background likes to command others like Han Xin (231B.C. – 196 B.C.), a famous Chinese militarist who thought that the more soldiers under his command, the better. Entrepreneurs with such background always talk about strategy, which can be proven by the language styles of Jianlin Wang, Zhengfei Ren and Chuanzhi Liu. Ha ha.
In my opinion, entrepreneurship is the best self-cultivation in the peacetime. Many people have completed the baptism and reconstruction of personality in entrepreneurship. What's your biggest entrepreneurial inspiration?
Yonghao Luo: I agree with you completely. Without the entrepreneurial experience, I completely cannot imagine a person of more than 40 years old still can make further progress all the time. I believe if I operate a company all the time, I will continue to make progress till I am 60 or 70 years old because you have to make progress and cultivation if you want to keep up with the pace.
As a person who wants to be a great man, a giant and a god since the childhood, I think entrepreneurship may be the biggest luck in my life except for my wife.
Fred Wang: If you have the opportunity to choose to be a preacher or a designer and you can only choose one of them, which is your favorite? To be a preacher, you will stand on the platform under spot light and anticipation of the public. To be a designer, you will work with other designers in the state of repeatedly elaboration.
Yonghao Luo: To be honest, I don't like preaching because I have no patience.
Fred Wang: Haha. You responded at the end of the launch event with a quote from Otto Lilienthal, father of the glider: it is necessary to make a little sacrifice, which will lead us to do something different. Although the Smartisan is an unknown answer in the next step, we should applaud for those efforts made for exploration, progress and continuous devotion for a different future.
Thanks again Mr. Luo, my brother. Thank you for joining the Ten Questions with Fred Wang today. I wish the Smartisan R1 and the Smartisan TNT station will be sold like the hot cake!
Come on. Mr. Luo.