China Renaissance CEO and founder Fan Bao meets a lot of startup entrepreneurs.
He has provided mergers-and-acquisitions advice and underwritten initial public offerings for some of China’s hottest startups. He also works with venture capitalists to help them identify top pre-IPO companies for investment.
He has advised on the $1.78 billion US listing of the Chinese e-commerce company, the $286 million public offering of the microblogging app Weibo, and the merger of the ride-hailing rivals Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.
When searching for a great startup, Bao says, the most important thing to pay attention to is the entrepreneur behind it.
“Early-stage development is probably all about the entrepreneur, or 90% about the entrepreneur,” Bao told Business Insider in a recent interview in San Francisco. “Even if the idea is somewhat less than perfect, he’ll somehow figure out a way to make it perfect.”
A good startup needs an entrepreneur who’s the right match for the task at hand.
“You have to understand what the job entails and you have to understand the individual, whether there is a match,” Bao said.
He provided two examples:
“If you do a social network, the entrepreneur better be young, the same generation as the users, a great product guy, have unique insight into the users and the needs and wants of the users, and be really passionate about the stuff he is doing. He’s not just making the product, creating a company, making a little money, but he truly believes his product can help his folks, or her folks, to make things differently. So that’s one.
“But if you’re an enterprise guy, you’re probably a bit older, and you need to be able to manage a pretty large engineering team. And the thing about enterprise is you have to sell. So the best enterprise entrepreneurs we have seen are more sales-y types, like coming from a selling and marketing perspective as opposed to a product-development perspective.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is gauging these things while many entrepreneurs have no real experience.
Inexperience does not deter Bao, however. The youngest entrepreneur his firm advises is 21.