Tibet is one of the most intriguing and challenging scenic spots in China, attracting many sightseers and adventurers. Among them is a Chinese hiking enthusiast who has successfully applied the spirit of adventure into an Internet startup he co-founded. With the same spirit, he aims to raise the company’s market value to RMB 100 billion (USD 15 billion).
Conquering snowy mountains vs. starting a business
“I have been to Tibet 37 times. Conquering the mountains there is just like solving entrepreneurship problems. Both of them call for the willpower and give you a sense of accomplishment,” Dixon Dai, co-founder and CEO of Juesheng Education Group told AllChinaTech.
Dai had previously successively held posts as a senior executive at Chinese online media company Sina, e-commerce company Dangdang Inc and online travel platform Qunar.com. These companies all have gone public.
“Choice is more important than hard work. This is what I want to tell the entrepreneurs as well as the youngsters,” said Dai.
All the companies “chosen” by Dai have turned out to be successful. Then does the “law of choice” apply to entrepreneurship? The answer is yes—you should choose a big-size market, the right teammates and investors, and the best company type, according to Dai.
Founding history: sense and sensibility
Despite his lengthy resume, Dai finally decided to enter a market that was entirely new to him: the Chinese education market, with its estimated more than 200 million students aged between 3 to 22 years old. Could his choice turn out to be another success?
“I found my son a training class in a company a couple of years ago, but the company ran away with my prepayment. So I decided to set up my own company to help parents like me choose reliable education services providers,” said Dai.
Indeed, this was a big emotional factor behind Dai’s entrepreneurship idea. There was also a more objective factor – the huge market potential – that strengthened his determination.
Dai said Chinese tech giant Baidu has mainly profited from companies in areas including medicine, education, tourism and on-demand services, but there was no education platform in China acting as a guide to users who need education-related services.
Dai was vice-president and founding member of Qunar, an Expedia-like online travel platform. Dai said that his experience in Qunar also applied to the education sector.
In November 2012, Dai resigned from Qunar and co-founded Juesheng in Beijing with his partner Que Dengfeng, an expert with years of experience in the traditional education industry in China.
The company now has over 250,000 merchants and 22 million users registered on its platform. It was listed on China’s New Third Board, a share transfer system for small-and medium-sized unlisted corporations, in March 2016.
A guide to parents seeking the most suitable education services for their children
Juesheng, or “full victory” in English, started as a website which divided all education services into four categories: interest-oriented learning, exams training, overseas studying and study tours. The company later developed over 30 mobile apps to focus on different users, taking into consideration location, subject and age.
“It’s impossible and irresponsible to include all segments of education into one single app. What a three-year-old kid needs is obviously different from the needs of a 22-year-old man,” said Dai.
As for businesses who want to use Juesheng, Juesheng will ask them to provide their qualifications, including a business license and teacher certification. Juesheng then reconstructs the classes or services provided by the qualified businesses, and showcases them on its website or apps for free.
Parents can pay a small fee – between RMB one to RMB 50 – for a trial class for their children on Juesheng’s website or mobile apps; they can later then go themselves to the particular company offering that class if they choose to do so.
If the parents decide to buy that class or service, they will pay that particular company. Then the company will split the fee with Juesheng. Advertisements are the second source of Juesheng’s income. The company’s revenue was RMB 54 million in 2015, a 209% YoY increase, according to the company’s official website.
The right people to play with
Juesheng now has over 100 staff, most of whom have come from companies with an Internet background including Baidu, Sina and Sohu.
“Juesheng is more an Internet company than an education one. Only those who know the Internet are able to build a platform which combines Internet with traditional education,” said Dai.
Juesheng’s business model has been endorsed by a number of investors, among whom are four listed companies: Chinese private educational services provider New Oriental, IT training company Tarena International Inc, book publisher Tangel Publishing and investment company China Equity Group.
Up to now, Juesheng has closed four rounds of financing. Most recently, the company landed over RMB 200 million in its Series C funding, and was valued at RMB 899 million in December 2015, according to company figures.
Juesheng cooperates with companies and websites including Baidu, Sm.cn, Gome.com and 58.com to promote the educational services on its platform.
The company acquired international travel service Beijing Itoo International Tours in May 2016 to turn it into a study tour services provider.
On education, on future
According to the data of professional services firm Deloitte, the educational training market size was RMB 1.6 trillion (USD 240 billion) in China in 2015. Deloitte divides the whole market into five sectors: public education, vocational training, children and infant education, kindergarten through twelfth grade education (K12) and non-K12 education.
Juesheng is now focused on the non-K12 sector with an emphasis on interest and quality-oriented education. But Dai said it was logically impossible to build an educational ecommerce company, since most of the educational products are non-standard.
“Juesheng’s mission is to build up a bridge between the merchants and the consumers, with transparent information, and we are the only company to do this in China,” said Dai.
Although Juesheng has listed on the New Third Board, Dai said it was only half way from his ultimate goal. The company still needs to work on Internet plus education, educational finance, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of international educational assets, and asset securitization.
“We are confident that we can raise our market value to RMB 100 billion before I turn 45. Then I will retire and continue with my travels and adventures. Maybe I will also write a book on my story,” said Dai.
(Top photo from Pixabay.com)