Common Wisdom That Investor Star Xu Xin and Ancient Officer Li Si Both Have

Coincidently, I read a story about Xu Xin and another about Li Si on the same day. Even I’ve known the stories a long time ago, going over again give me a deeper understanding and further learning.

Xu Xin is an extraordinarily successful investor in China by boldly putting venture capital in now big names such as JD.com, Wahaha, Netease at early stage. She’s been through tough times, but the outcome proved her judgment and perseverance.  Li Si lived in the time before BC, he played a vital role in aiding the First Emperor Qin united then multiple-countries all into one China in BC 211.

I am in awe to their achievements and attempt to summarize their wisdom in the following three points: 1. their emphasis on choosing the right environment or platform, 2. the deep, piercing insight to analyze a situation, not blinded by surface details as most people do; 3. think and offer solution or decision from the perspective of the other side, while most people tend to just think for him/herself.

First, the environment is vital. if you are a seed with potential to grow to a gigantic tree, but unluckily was drifted to a desert, surviving can be a serious issue, let alone dreaming of growing big. It’s a metaphor, you get what I mean, and also keep in mind, we are not the helpless seeds relying on the wind or animal to move to the right soil, we are movable by ourselves. So when the environment is not cultivating, try to move.

Quoting Li Si’s famous statement, “I saw the rats in the shabby, smelly toilet running around so starved, skinny and fearful, however, the rats living in the rice barn are fat, content and dare to swagger in front of me. We human beings are similar to these rats in that the environment makes us vastly different. I want to be the barn rat. ”

Li Si practiced his decision to be a “barn rat” by giving up his clerk job, leaving his hometown, pursuing a role to serve the future emperor.  Xu Xin, in modern time,  followed the same route – starting from a bank teller in Shanghai to an accountant certificate and position in pwc in Hong Kong, then move to a VC firm, later on, set out on her own to be an investor. Xu Xin not only practiced it on her own life trajectory but also in picking the right project to invest. She stresses the number one criteria is the sector or field, if the field is not a booming one such as O2O, e-commerce, she won’t consider.

Second, insight. When I grow up, I realized that discussing or competing for smartness is trivial and irrelevant. What truly matters is the insight. Einstein is not the most brilliant mathematician, but his insight of the law of universe makes him the greatest human being. Assuming a job such as an accountant, a lawyer, it’s not proud to be the most accurate or efficient in this job per se, but if you can see the real value needed and be able to offer a high-level satisfying service. Uber and Airbnb didn’t try to open the best taxi or hotel business, but to grasp the actual need of getting accommodated via a car or a room to stay with. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos didn’t consider Amazon as a replication of bookstore online from the first day he established the firm, his view is -far-ahead of the time – a dominant matrix-like business emperor getting rid of the inefficient intermediaries.

It’s not easy, but I always ask myself, what I am doing? What is the ultimate need from the clients that I have been trying hard to offer to them? Are their requirements fulfilled? Do they actually need something else because they are not fully aware of what their clients want?  Down to the core, the essence of business, of everybody’s work is to provide something valuable, even there is the caveat that the existing ecosystem still has inefficiencies or bureaucracies that propelled oppositely, for example,  we all are aware of and complain about the DMV’s staff. They are not working for serving the clients, their salary is fixed, from the non-business government, hence, the staff has no motivation to really serve their clients.

So what is the essential needs of my current clients – mostly financial fund managers or fund issuers? They are desperate to find data/model to help them pick securities. Fundamental research is not only slow but inadequate for them to fulfill their job roles. They are amazed – somewhat threatened- to see how my systematic data algorithm yield a fine and complete list of stocks that otherwise would cost them weeks or months to come up, which likely would not be as comprehensive and robust.

Having access to an ocean of datasets (if partnering with multiple data providers)
+
An algorithm or model designed to be able to scale up by light tweaking

These two can potentially be able to make a “benchmark” business serving hundreds or thousands of clients. And if every client could pay $20K, the rough projection can be $2M.

Third, perspective. Li Si is extremely good at understanding his client – the emperor’s need. Everything he thinks, he proposes is for the consideration of his client, that’s why he could go so far in his career to be the second powerful man and made a lasting impact to the entire Chinese history.

In the real world, the most important person we need to practice this third point-perspective- is our boss. I love what Charlie Munger said – work for somebody you respect, leave at the soonest from the person you don’t like to work for. Of course, in actuality, oftentimes, we can’t simply leave, and the boss usually is not black-white good or bad. So applying this perspective principle is quite useful and effective.

Before applying the perspective for your boss, I think to sort out the perspective of this relationship itself is of first importance. Because we are now in a different era. Even we are not as free as we always desire, we are not ruled by terror as Li Si was thousands of years ago, when, a failed cooperation with his boss -emperor- leads to death.

Nowadays, a relationship with your boss should be regarded as an ally, both sides aiming to maximize the mutual benefits. Within an ally group, two parties are equal and open to claim what they can offer and gain from. The terms should be laid out clearly with details on timeline, assessment etc.

 

 

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