For the second straight year, under-35 entrepreneurs from Atlanta are being sought for a three-city, 16-day whirlwind tour of China’s startup and technology ecosystems.
The World Affairs Council of Atlanta’s Young Leaders program is once again helping the Confucius Institute at Georgia State University find five bright minds to join a global cohort from the U.S., Canada and Australia that will visit universities, startup incubators, and campuses of major Chinese tech powerhouses like Alibaba, Tencent and search giant Baidu. Cities to be visited include Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Hanban, the Chinese government agency that runs 300-plus Confucius Institutes teaching Chinese language and culture at universities worldwide, is covering on-the-ground costs and half of the economy airfare. Visas and travel insurance must be arranged by the entrepreneurs.
To be eligible, they must be under 35 years old and serve as a principal or partner in a startup in operation for three years or less. Of course, they also have to be a Young Leaders member — an issue the World Affairs Council can quickly remedy for those who haven’t yet joined.
Applications are due April 13 and require a business plan, resume and a three-minute video. University students with business plans are also welcome to apply — especially those who have won entrepreneurship competitions.
When he heard about the fellowship by email near last year’s application deadline, Atlanta entrepreneur Jordan Satary was fortunately building up the video production arm of his media company, SHUFE Media. His application accepted, he joined the World Affairs Council and earned one of the fellowship slots.
Seeing China’s tech-savvy young people and deep innovation ecosystem made him glad he was experiencing the country from the vantage point of tech insiders. He’d already planned to go to the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, but this was a chance for a different introduction.
“For my first time going to China, there could be no better way, because it allowed me to have the opportunity to meet different business owners and investors at a higher level than if I were to go as a tourist,” Mr. Satary said.
In metro Atlanta, his current ventures include a consultancy for health laboratories and an international grocery store in Gwinnett County. In the future, he can foresee sourcing from China or conducting e-commerce business there. But one of the main benefits was networking with other fellows, including visiting an incubator with the Australian group.
China is the world’s second largest economy, but it’s better known for its manufacturing prowess than its tech scene.
But the country is fast becoming a global leader in fields like mobile payments and messaging apps, drones, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, the sharing economy and delivery services, among other fields. It’s also aiming to drive the integration of technology into its vast manufacturing infrastructure.
Donovan Butler went to China pitching an app that lets citizens rate their interactions with police officers, hoping to foster more engagement between law enforcement and neighborhoods. It wasn’t necessarily the right market fit, but the trip helped the Atlanta native and Morehouse student get beyond his local mindset.
“It definitely opened my eyes to another market,” he said — and not just to China. He became fast friends with other entrepreneurs from places like Australia, Jordan and Nepal, adding to his global network.
“I always tell people I learned talking in regular conversation than I might have learned in school in 10 years,” Mr. Butler said.
In December of last year, Mr. Butler started Ragculture, which focuses on hair accessories for African American men. One of his new friends from Australia helped streamline the back end of the website and is planning to visit him in Atlanta soon, reciprocating an Australia visit Mr. Butler made after the China trip.
He recommends that this year’s fellows be ready to work hard on the ground and be aggressive about networking with colleagues, even at dinners and drinks outside the structured program.
“While you’re over there, develop real relationships because they will translate when you get back.”
To learn more about the trip or to join the Young Leaders, click here.
To download the application form, click here.