Mao Daqing, CE0 and founder of coworking firm Ucommune, isn’t your average entrepreneur. Unlike the stereotypical 20-something techie, Mao didn’t start his own company until after a two-decades-long career as a real estate executive. But despite his late start and august pedigree—his father help design the Great Hall of the People in Beijing—Mao still boasts the unconventional thinking and unique perspective that characterizes the best entrepreneurs and innovators.
Maybe that’s how he went from zero to unicorn in just three years. And he has just gotten started: Ucommune is rolling out across Asia with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong and an investment in Indonesia, and the startup has even made landfall in the US.
Here Mao shares five principles that have powered his entrepreneurial journey.
When the going gets tough, you get tougher
People only see the glamorous side of entrepreneurship at successful companies like Vanke and Lenovo. I have been friends with the Chairmen of both of those companies for a long time and I can tell you that they have had their fair share of challenges.
Successful people have the ability to deal with difficult problems in a day that would have taken the average person 30 days to solve and crushed others. I was diagnosed with depression in 2012. A famous entrepreneur friend introduced me to marathon running, saying it would help me overcome my struggles. Marathons have given me the stamina to stay in the race, to persevere and see things as they are, not as I wanted them to be. That has helped a lot in problem-solving.
If you really want to be successful in life, hang in there when the going gets tough. You’re building the muscles for success.
When I started Ucommune, all I thought the goal was to create a platform that can make the life of a startup founder much easier. Now three years later, we have achieved that but also adapted to changes in the market and client needs. By 2020, 75 percent of the workforce will be Millennials (20 to 34-year-olds), and they and other modern entrepreneurs have quick-evolving work styles and demands. Apart from making robust investments in AI and Internet-of-Things technologies, Ucommune is also diversifying the member portfolio to create stronger synergies and more room for creativity, where innovative ideas can truly be stimulated, nurtured and empowered.
Be bold and don’t get tripped up by minor challenges
I might have the habit of speaking my mind too openly. When I was Vice Chairman with Vanke in 2014, I gave a speech warning about a potential property bubble in the Chinese market. After that speech, I received a barrage of criticism from people in high places for a long time. Then in 2017, we had a lawsuit with one of our competitors and rebranded our company to Ucommune. Events like that put many things in perspective. They make you reflect over why you started it all and what it’s all for. When I started Ucommune three years ago, I knew in the long run what I had gotten myself into. I have learned to be more at ease with the small hurdles along the way.
Empower others and you empower yourself
SMEs in China are growing at an exponential rate—they have become a pillar of the national economy. The Belt and Road project will also encourage the emergence of a large group of SMEs in the region and Ucommune is right at the forefront of that. My vision with Ucommune was and has always been to create a platform for dreamers, innovators and change evangelists to connect, share, collaborate and create together. Through curating a space where various verticals are comingled, the collaborative opportunities are unlocked and imagination maximized. The sharing economy thus is no longer just a business model, but more of an ideology, a way of reconstructing people-to-people relationships
Always dream big
I have been planning on pursuing a global business strategy from day one.
Singapore is the first city Ucommune has entered outside of China, doing so in June last year. Although the city-state already had more than 80 co-working providers, I was keen to establish a presence there, confident that Ucommune occupies a unique niche, leveraging our vast China network and resources. The brand, after an acquisition spree earlier this year, has set up two locations: Aye Rajah Crescent and Suntec Tower in Singapore, with the third one to open next year in CBD. In Hong Kong, Ucommune’s Sheungwan location is set to open by late January.
I think we are definitely well-positioned to face any international competition. China has tremendous resources and possibilities and we are leveraging just that. Also working to our advantage is the invaluable support from our phenomenal investors and our strategic alliance with the government—all making our value clear when servicing our members, from start-ups to MNCs.