In 2004 I met an unassuming, thin Chinese man named Gary Wang for dinner along with a few friends on Hengshan Road in Shanghai. At first, Wang seemed to be the least charismatic of the group. He wore dark clothes, mumbled he did something with paper, and was relatively quiet as we talked about the differences between living overseas and in China.
We started talking about potential opportunities for starting or investing in companies. Wang came alive at the talk of entrepreneurship—he seemed to sit straighter in his chair and his eyes started to sparkle.
Underneath his unassuming exterior I could sense a drive and penetrating intelligence. As we walked to get after-dinner drinks, I asked if he wanted to remain in the paper business or switch to something else.
Wang looked me in the eyes and said, “I'm thinking about opening an online video site.” I was overseeing information technology (IT) investments for Inter-Asia at the time, so his idea piqued my interest. I prodded him to explain more.
“I have a friend, a foreigner—we're thinking about doing something with sharing online videos,” Wang said. The technology behind online video streaming was just starting to go mainstream, and he was figuring out how to harness the new technology to create a profitable business. No one in China, America, or anywhere else had been able to do it ...