Past Event: Stanford GSB Chapter of Hong Kong

Date:
Breakfast, Thursday 16 June 2016
Hosted by HK Club Member, Mr. Peter Amour

Stanford Speaks:
DR. LI SONG
Founder & Chairman, Zhenai.com

Discussion Topic:
I'D RATHER CRY IN A BMW THAN SMILE ON THE BACK OF A BICYCLE WITH YOU...
How Zhenai Injected Traditional Chinese Marriage Culture into e-Dating: And Became China’s Largest Dating Service Despite Industry Struggles with Fraud, “Hormone-Filled Apps” and Achieving Long-Term Monetization When Your Happiest Customers Always Leave You (When They Marry!)

Time:
07:45 Registration
08:15 Remarks, followed by Q&A
09:45 Close
  
Place:
The Hong Kong Club
Harcourt Suite, 1st Floor, 1 Jackson Road, Central, Hong Kong
(NB: please note strict HK Club dress code: Smart casual or business attire only. No jeans/denim, T-shirts, tracksuits, shorts, sports shoes or flip-flops).

Cost & Registration:
To register, please go online and CLICK HERE to RSVP and PRE-PAY NOW.

Early Bird Credit Card or PayPal Pre-Payment of HKD 380 if made by 23:59 Tuesday night, 14 June. Cash Payment of any kind (whether Pre-Registered or Walk In) and/or Late Online Payment - will be HKD 580. Please bring exact amount if paying at the door as no change will be provided and no credit cards or checks will be accepted. No refunds for no-shows or post-payment cancellations.

Early Bird registration is encouraged. Questions or problems registering? Please contact Beatrice Wong, Chapter VP, at beatrice@stanfordgsbhk.org.

Guests:
Welcome.

Speaker's Bio
See below

Event Details:

The Stanford GSB Chapter of Hong Kong is pleased to invite you for breakfast and conversation with Dr. Li Song, founder and Chairman of privately-held Zhenai, China’s largest e-dating service (100 million registered users, growing by 40,000 users a day/40% CAGR), in an industry projected to grow to USD 1.6 billion in revenues by year-end 2016. Dr. Li’s own career path prior to running China’s leading e-dating service is highly unusual, having begun his career in genetic engineering before switching to finance and then internet entrepreneurship.

In a low-barrier to entry, crowded market, Zhenai (founded in 2005, in which Match.com took at 20% stake in 2011), has successfully focused on the relatively more price-indifferent marriage oriented customer, taking traditional Chinese courtship traditions and modernizing them online. In parallel, Zhenai relies heavily on off-line advertising, using such high profile endorsers as Le Jia, host of the “If You Are the One” television dating show to reinforce its market positioning. Separate from its on-line services, however, Zhenai has over 1,000 hong niang “red ladies” to help single men and women build an appealing profile, give tips on dressing, locations for first dates, and ask the often difficult questions other embarrassing to directly pose to their potential matches. Such services come at a premium, with Zhenai charging some of the highest rates in the industry: USD 800 for 6 months of matchmaking services; USD 64 for 12 months of online dating and USD 1500 for a face to face meeting with your matchmaker.

Despite its significant potential, however, the Chinese market faces significantly different risks and challenges from its Western counterparts.

Tinder, for example, is able to leverage Facebook to import a user’s profile and real world friends. But in China, where Facebook is banned, trying to “leverage” multiple social platforms featuring user names and various kitten and cat pictures is hardly a credible “Facebook alternative” for such an app. In the West, the typical dating profile of “height, weight, marital status, job” looks almost superficial versus the level of specificity required by potential matches in China. Exact weight, exact height, proof of car/property ownership (65% of Tier One City Chinese women will not marry a man until he owns a home), exact monthly salary, hukou, ethnicity, local dialect, and, in the case of sites such as Zhenai, explicit confirmation that potential matches are looking for a spouse on the site and not randomly dating. Not to mention blood type, where a type A (believed to be perfectionists) might recoil at the idea of dating an AB type (arty, mysterious and unpredictable).

All this in a society where the past Single Child Policy has made it more difficult to find a spouse and raised the stakes of doing so; where 27% of urban women in their late 20s are not married (compared to only 7% in 1982); where 15% of the population is single (200 MM young adults); where it is estimated that 15% to 20% of young men may never find brides; yet where 90% of Chinese still feel women should be married by age 27 or risk becoming “leftover ladies”; and where customers can remain as fickle as anywhere in the world, as contestant Ms. Ma Nuo’s famous response (“I would rather cry in a BMW….”) to her unemployed suitor on TV’s If You Are the One (Fei Cheng Wu Rao), revealed.

In parallel to these cultural challenges, the PRC e-dating sector also faces significant business upheaval.

Consolidation has changed the players (for example, the recent announced merger of Baihe/LoveWorld Inc. and the former #1 site, Jiayun.com Int’l). At the same time, well-funded, well-connected new entrants continue to appear, ever more sub-segmenting an already complex market. Such players include Momo, which leverages location based services and is backed by Alibaba; Tantan, a Tinder knock-off backed by Bertelsmann; Qinghifan, modelled on one lunch/one dinner invitations backed by Sequoia and Vertex/Temasek; or even WeChat Shake, Tencent’s feature that allows automatic connection with everyone within a given radius that shake their phone at the same time. Government pressure and oversight on the industry is also increasing. In Feb 2015, the Cyberspace Administration of China accused the industry of promoting fraud and the encouragement of prostitution, forcing more than 65 sites to shut down and remaining sites to enforce real name registration by their customers. Xinhua, in April 2014 accused Zhenai competitor Momo of being a “hormone-filled app providing a new mobile base for sexual trades and other illegal activities.”

How does Zhenai plan to meet these new competitors and their challenges? How does Zhenai think about long-term monetization in an industry where “your happiest customers (because they get married) are always leaving you”? And, what wisdom can Dr. Li share, personally, given his own career trajectory from scholar to banker to internet entrepreneur, on how to “optimize” one’s career in a world where black swan events can upset the best of laid plans, prestigious degrees and brilliant business insights?

The Stanford GSB Chapter of HK could not be more pleased to have Dr. Li share his insights on this often misunderstood industry, its future in China and his own career path. We hope you can join us.

Speaker's Bio: DR. LI SONG
Dr. Li Song is the founder, chairman and, until January 2016, was also the CEO of Zhenai.com, the largest online & mobile dating service provider in China, with 100 million registered members and an annual run rate of USD 200 million in revenue. Dr. Li began his tech career by initially setting up an incubator that gave birth, inter alia, to MemeStar/Xunlong, a mobile SMS-based chat service successfully sold to Sina. Dr. Li’s entrepreneurial experience has been featured by some of the major international and Chinese media such as CNN, CNBC, Tokyo TV, CCTV, Hong Kong Phoenix TV, Beijing TV and Shanghai Oriental TV.

Before becoming an Internet entrepreneur, Dr. Li was an Executive Director of the Equities Division at Morgan Stanley Asia, in charge of originating and marketing equity derivatives to the investment bank's corporate and high-net worth clients in Asia, prior to which he was a Vice President in NYC in the Fixed Income Division of Bear Stearns.

Dr. Li received a Ph.D. in finance from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and, at Cornell University, studied molecular genetics.