The Last Days of Chazen China

After a packed Thursday, including an evening alumni cocktail event overlooking the Bund, Friday was our last day of company visits.

Our first stop, Sequoia Capital, needs no introduction. As we walked pass the “Wall of Fame,” which included Paypal, Google, and Apple, we gathered around the conference room to hear Trency Gu eloquently describe the differences between Sequoia US and Sequoia China and TMT and healthcare investing. Unlike the US fund, Sequoia China does not exclusively invest in TMT; it also invests in healthcare, consumer, and industrials. While describing the healthcare investments, Ms. Gu said, “China is very good at the basic research science, but there are major gaps from basic science to translation into application and commercialization. China needs to put more effort into filling that gap, we need to get better at tech transfer.” This gap provides ample investment opportunity for Ms. Gu and Sequoia. After a moment for viewing pictures along the wall of fame, we thanked Ms. Gu for her time and traveled to our last group lunch.

Throughout the whole trip, the members of the Chazen group often found ourselves saying “Why don’t we do this in America,” or “We should bring this back home.” One of our favorites was the mass utilization of Lazy Susans. A Lazy Susan is welcoming in its efficiency, beautiful in its simplicity, and stunning in its functionality. Intellectual conversations are not interrupted by “Alex, can you pass the hoisin sauce?” or “Alex, can you pass the dumplings?” People are not embarrassed to eat the last piece of spicy Szechuan chicken because it is in Ernie’s reach zone, they can merely swirl the Lazy Susan and grab that piece of chicken. Ok, my ode to the Lazy Susan is now complete, had to share.

After lunch, we split into two group for a visit at iZhaohu. One group went to the corporate office and the other went to a care home. At the corporate office, we entered a room filled with flat screens tracking accident rates, the movement of elderly, morning wake up times, and various other metrics. We were shown IoT enabled home furniture and beds to track such metrics, the bed included an “Alexa” like screen that talked to senior citizens. We were impressed by the integration of AI and by all the technical advances on display. During the Q&A sessions we were told many of the objects shown in the promotional videos and in person were merely concepts and yet to be fully integrated. We were also informed that iZhaohu was able to grow from a handful to 70 locations in less than five years because the government provided cheap or free land/housing—another example of the intertwinement of government and private enterprises.

The two Chazen groups switched, and my group was off to the care home to see how much of the technology was implemented. The home is a short-term care facility for the elderly with injuries or those whom need monitoring for three to six months. As we walked through the facility, we saw vast similarities with US care facilities. The home was not for the mases, it was for those that could afford luxury. We were disappointed to see that many of the “wow” aspects of the videos were merely promotional and not implemented. Clearly iZhaohu has valuable ideas and technology, but implementation is not the norm. We look forward to following the iZhaohu story and someday adding their technological ideas to the list of “we should bring this to the US.”

At the end of the iZhaohu tour, we had a goodbye dinner for our fearless faculty advisor, Lorraine Marchand. Afterwards, it was time to entrench ourselves in the local culture and blow off some steam. We went out on the town and bonded as a group on the dancefloor and later in room 1012 over some late-night snacks. The next morning, a thin crew went sightseeing, but in the afternoon, almost everyone came to the lobby of the Shanghai Tower for the 45.8 mph elevator ride to the 118th floor observatory, 1791 feet in the air. We were fortunate that the smog and clouds were gone that day and we could see far into the distance. This was the last planned group event; standing on top of the world’s second largest building was a great way to conclude a wonderful trip.

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