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Q&A with GMIC: Combining CES, SXSW and the Academy Awards

AllChinaTech News

On Friday, the second day of the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) Beijing, AllChinaTech got a chance to speak with Hao Yi, the co-CEO of GWC and the organizer of GMIC. He outlined his vision for GMIC as a global network.

You now act as the co-CEO of GWC, what’s your vision for GMIC?

This is the eighth year of GMIC so it’s time for us to have some breakthroughs. This year, our primary breakthrough is changing from a completely business-oriented conference to not only a business conference, but also a conference for average consumers.

In the past, GMIC was positioned as a high-end industrial conference with a lot of industry big shots and magnates. But now our country has a national call for “mass entrepreneurship and innovation”, so we thought, why don’t we bring technology to the general public?

We chose “crossover” as the main theme of our conference this year: a crossover for internet and other industries, such as entertainment. We also launched the GMIC Carnival and GMICX Ceremony, through which we want to present the trend of Internet+ to the average people in this country.

For example, we’ll present VR Peking Opera and 3D-printed candies at the GMIC Carnival, so now even elders in their 50s and three-year-old toddlers can all enjoy the amazing technology at GMIC. In this way, average people can also relate to the most popular trends in hi-tech today.

The scene in the exhibition area of GMIC. (Photo courtesy of GMIC)

You use the example of SXSW to describe the possible change this partnership will bring to GMIC in the future. But Chinese culture is very different from that of the U.S., so it may not be possible to create a 100% SXSW-like atmosphere here. What will GMIC be like if it’s not the SXSW of China?

It’ll definitely be unique for us. But I think we will learn from each other for sure. GMIC is more like the combination of CES, SXSW and the Academy Awards Ceremony of mobile innovation. This is definitely unique in the world.

There’s a concept we’re promoting this year, which is something we’re trying to learn from SXSW: it’s being boundless.

I went to SXSW earlier and its main venue was far simpler and cruder than our venue is. But SXSW isn’t only about the main venue. They also make full use of every hotel lounge, every restaurant, every bar and live house in the city. In that way, SXSW is in every corner of the city.

So my friend Shen Lihui, who’s the boss of Chinese indie music brand Modernsky, said, “GMIC’s the biggest mobile innovation platform in China, and we host the biggest indie music festival here. I don’t think we can’t make anything as good as SXSW.” So there we go.

Last night we had this very unique “Academy Awards” of Chinese technology at the Bird’s Nest. We also partnered up with Modernsky’s Sound of The Xity music festival, which is hosted in almost all of the best live houses here in Beijing.

One more thing: we Chinese love duplicating and scaling up, so we plan to bring our GMIC Carnival to many other cities in China, not only Beijing, but also Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. We want to make these technologies accessible to people in these cities as well. Technology shouldn’t be high-end and exclusive. It should be approachable to all.

You talked about how GMIC is planning on going to more countries right now, like Dubai and Dublin. It’s normally pretty challenging to get into a market with a totally different cultural background. What strategies does GMIC plan to use to localize in these markets?

This year, we plan to organize nine conferences in nine different cities: Tel-Aviv, Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Silicon Valley, Taipei, Bangalore and Seoul. For each city, we’ll have different formats and themes.

The one in Beijing is of course one of our flagships. We’ll have another one of the same scale in Bangalore, India, because the business environment in India is very similar to that of China. This will be our third conference in India, and GMIC has already become the biggest mobile innovation conference in India.

In many countries, they don’t have any massive event for mobile innovation, so we naturally become the only and best in the country. These cities also love to have GMIC there. For example, this year, we may also have a conference in Kazakhstan, because the local government wants to develop strategies similar to our Internet+ strategy in their country. They invited GMIC to their country and we’re very honoured. It’s almost like the Silk Road for mobile innovation in a global market.

I’ve been working on globalization for years. It is challenging. But we have a good opportunity here. Why is GWC able to have over 800 member companies all over the world and host so many conferences? One simple reason: the right place and the right timing. Do what’s appropriate at the right place during the right time. We’re actually growing along with the global trend of mobilization now.

We started seven years ago in China. And now, we’re getting into emerging markets like Brazil, which is fast-growing with a strong demand for mobilization. Brazil is beginning to do what we did here in China before. We also have support from local partners and local governments, which makes it easier for us to understand the demands in each of these markets.

We also managed to set up different themes at different places, like hi-tech for Israel, AI and robotics for Tokyo and IoT for Taipei. These conferences don’t have to be of the same scale as the one in Beijing, but we do take care of our attendees’ specific needs in each city and I think that’s enough.

Participant in the G-Startup pitch event at GMIC (Photo courtesy of GMIC)

GMIC is a global network and it’s expanding to even more markets right now. How does GWC plan to connect all these overseas companies apart from the one single annual conference?

Organizing conferences is only one of many things that we do. We also guide G-trips for our members to visit each other in different countries. At the same time, we also have a lot of other chances for communication and even for investment.

For example, now we also have incubators in Silicon Valley and at the Zhongguancun tech hub in Beijing. We also host G-startup pitch contests at each stop. This year we received 260 applications in Israel, out of which only three will get a chance to win either our investment or other forms of support. All these things need follow-up, so that is to say, we’re building up a new ecosystem for GWC. Just as our slogan goes: to connect the world and enable innovation.

And how can we achieve that? Later on, we’ll explore chances to build coworking spaces and other projects based on current resources we accumulated with our conferences. Then it’ll become a brand-new startup ecosystem of mobile innovation.

So you see what we’re hosting. It isn’t only a majestic conference, it’s an ecosystem.

AllChinaTech has a media partnership with GMIC. AllChinaTech is a startup media platform dedicated to providing timely news and analysis on the Chinese tech industry in English.

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