Starting a company in Shanghai: The interview of Romain, co-founder of EEXAR
At only 24 years-old, Romain Dessain-Gelinet left France to start his Augmented Reality company in Shanghai with his co-founder Nicolas Letendrie. The start-up called EEXAR was initially a student project. Ex-student from a French Business School, Romain explains why Nicolas and him decided to start their company in China rather than in France.
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Transcripts of the interview
– Hello Romain
– Hello Sarah
– You are the co-founder of EEXAR. Could you please present your company?
– So in a few words, EEXAR is an Augmented Reality Company. What we do is we develop the vanguard sales. Basically we equip every salesman with a tablet and AR glasses to improve the sales process from product presentations to the final quotation.
– Why did you choose this name?
– Actually we were called “Rocket & AR” before. It started as a student project for a year but we found out that it was quite a chillish name. Especially the logo were kind of childish. So we went through an all design thinking for finding the new name. It did not work and at the end we just had the co-founder Nicolas who typed EEXAR on internet, found that is was an available domain name and it sounds nice. There is ” XAR” in the name which is “extended reality” and we go for Enterprise Experience and Augmented Reality.
– Why did you make the choice to set up your business in Shanghai?
– So as I said before it was a student project so we were pitching this project in France. But I was doing my internship in China for my last year so I was also pitching the project here. And we had like two difficulties in France. In France people are telling us “It’s a good idea”. In China they are telling us “It’s a good idea, when do you start?” So we decided to be in here instead of France.
– Because you had more contacts, more people that encouraged you?
– We have our contacts, my network was well-developped here because I had a year and a half of internship before. The community in Shanghai is like as soon as you are starting something they all want to be part of it. And the second thing is technology adoption. People here are willing to try new things.
– So, do you speak chinese?
– Ting bu dong (“Je ne comprends pas”, en chinois)
– Did you know how to set up a business in China before to come here?
“Actually, starting a company is not that hard”
– No I didn’t. Actually I came here, the last time was for a 6 months internship, and my goal was to fundraise 1.5 million dollars for a company. I was thinking “Actually, starting a company is not that hard, because fund raising is close to start a company : the projection, the pitching… And I was like “ok, just do it!”
– Ok, that’s a lot of courage. So, do you have investors, and if you have, where did you find them?
– Currently, we don’t have any investor in our company. We are “Bootstrap“; that means our clients fund us for the project we do for them. However, we do need fundraising to play faster cause we want to have a full software ready by the middle of next year instead of 3 years from now. So we have some investors, Business Angels we are talking to, to fundraise 200 000 dollars. It is a long process, your project needs to be perfine, you have an idea you pitch in the front line.
– Which type of visa did you have when you arrived?
-Tourist Visa. The story is I heard about a program with the chinese government called the entrepreneurship Visa. The fact is you arrive here with a tourist Visa and then you transfer it into an entrepreneurship Visa if you are qualified. We were recommended by an incubator called “K-tech“ but at the end we had this Visa. It is like a resident permit for one year.
– So now you have the entrepreneur Visa?
“The entrepreneurship Visa allows you to stay in China, but not to get paid.”
– I have it and now we are switching to working Visa, because the entrepreneurship Visa allows you to stay in China, but not to get paid. So even if you have a company and you are making profit, you can’t get money from it with this kind of Visa.
– That’s difficult thus, how can you survive? Did you receive any help?
– A lot, it is not like in France. Actually if you start in France for example you will just have financial help mostly and you will get 50 000€ if you want for your company, free of charge. It is pretty good. However, if you start there having clients is pretty complicated because in France they require that you have a background, a great team, other used cases.
It is not the case in Shanghai, you have a team, you have a prototype, technology is working so we go for it. We decided to use that so the help we had was mainly from the community who connected us with people who needed our technology and also told us how to develop our business in Shanghai.
– Do you have kind of a PEPITE ? You know in France we have PEPITE in Business School and IAE. Have you heard about it?
– I was a PEPITE actually in France, in Rennes, for an another project. For consulting and transformation technology between France and China. However there was a few support. It was good for connecting us with other entrepreneurs, but few added value for your own project.
And right now the PEPITE in Shanghai is the French Tech PEPITE and it’s a completely different environment. Here they push you to investors they push you to pitch or to clients. This is a way more worth the time in the company than in France.
– Maybe it is more professional and less scholar?
– How do you advertise your company in China?
“If someone knows us, he will tell the rest.”
– Basically we don’t. The fact is we work in B to B, so we don’t believe in marketing automation yet. What we do is talk to people, then refer us and that’s how we advertise. Because everyone is connected here and work with international companies. So if someone knows us, he will tell the rest.
– So this is World of Mouth.
– Are you in chinese social media?
– No, I mean we are in Wechat. Mainly what we do is to advertise our success. For example we won this prize or we pitched there. It is good enough to show people we are existing but it does not bring leads. But I guess Wechat and Weibo are great in marketing. It could help us a lot if we were in a more advanced step.
– Do you think about doing it later?
– That is of course a plan , for sure.
– What are the important points you learnt until now?
“Better do than think. […] At least we have someting to show to other people.”
– Better do than think, definitely. I have started with 3 other entrepreneurs, we all got the entrepreneur Visa. So we were 4 starting, and today I am the only one left.
Because those three, they had good projects basis but they did not invest and try prototypes, and work on it. They were just pitching and fund raising. And they died out of cash flow. Instead of us, we were “ok, we have a link here, we develop right now because at least we have something to show to other people”.
– Thank you Romain.
– Thank you Sarah.
Starting a company in Shanghai : 10 Takeways
- Choose a clear name with an available domain name for your website
- Find an incubator to help you for the Visa requirements
- Be aware you will not earn money with the entrepreneurship Visa
- Be ready to pitch
- Develop your network
- Involve the Shanghai community in your project
- Never stop looking for investors
- Get closer to The French Tech Shanghai
- Talk about the development of your company in social media
- Better do than think