Adam Zuckerman Reflects on China’s Startup Ecosystem

“By having dialogue, talking to people and stopping people, you’re going to have better relationships and see opportunity.”

This was the message Adam Zuckerman delivered during his talk, “Reflections on my Time in China.” The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center hosted the innovator and entrepreneur for a discussion on everything from blockchain to China’s startup ecosystem. The event was part of a recent speaker series sponsored by the Lepage Center.

Watch the entire video here

Zuckerman, who currently serves as Director of Ventures and Innovation at Discovery, Inc. was one of nine American leaders named to be 2018 Zhi-Xing China Eisenhower Fellows.

The prestigious award sent him, with a full-time interpreter by his side, on a four week journey throughout China. He and other fellows met leading thinkers across diverse fields, exchanged knowledge and ideas, and walked away with not only a wealth of experience, but a further developed international understanding.

Though his talk included analysis of topics like the country’s rapid industrial growth and how WeChat and QR codes are spearheading a cashless society, it was the numerous relationships formed that Zuckerman was most eager to highlight.

“30 meetings. 85 people. 7 cities.”

He cited one fascinating talk with the Innovation Director which, even though it didn’t start until late in the night, continued for three hours straight. But beyond the scheduled events and busy days of meetings, Zuckerman still found the time for meaningful interactions with locals. One such opportunity came when a young girl stopped him on the street to talk, seemingly curious about his uncommon complexion. Between her parents and his interpreter, the two could swap stories and share aspects of their culture.

These moments, he said, would not have been possible without the resources and unparalleled access granted to the fellows by the Chinese government and the Ministry of Education.

I found this human focus a refreshing change of pace from our technologically dominated society. More and more, our actions and experiences both in real life and on the web are becoming broken down into quantifiable numerical data.

This is not inherently wrong, and Zuckerman himself points out how China’s use of surveillance cameras and constant monitoring opens up exciting, if not intimidating, possibilities for algorithmically driven city planning. However, in a business world dictated by bottom lines, it’s easy to lose sight of the powerful impact new conversations can have toward tackling challenges and uncovering the next pathway to success.

Curiosity is at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit and, as Zuckerman reminds us, you can never stop exploring.

Article by Will Potts, Lepage Student Fellow