Teach Us to Treasure the Bird in Hand

This is an article recently published by David L. Katz, MD, Founder, True Health Initiative. I have embellished it a bit. It’s powerful and very relevant. I would encourage you to read it completely. This is one in a series of articles where professionals provide advice for the next U.S. president.

It could be re-titled, “We will never cure Cancer, because we are too invested in NOT curing It.

Dear Madam / Mr. President: For more than twenty years, across an expanse of both democratic and republican administrations, we have neglected one of the greatest potential advances in the history of public health.

I invite you, and I implore you, to lead us toward that reachable, luminous prize: the addition of years to countless lives, the addition of life to countless years. We can eliminate up to 80% of the total burden of chronic disease — heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia, etc. — by applying knowledge of the root causes of such disease not only now in hand, but in hand already for decades. You could pledge your commitment to this campaign, and lead us. And because you can, you should. Lives — lives we know how to save — are at stake.

I respectfully urge you to make the combination of longevity and vitality, followed more often than not by a timely, swift, and gentle exit into that inevitable night, the new American standard. I ask this of you because it can be done.

Like so many others, I was moved when your predecessor, whom I admire, leveraged the imprimatur of his high office, and the State of the Union address, to propound his will against the menace of cancer. I was moved in particular because the enemy was not diffuse and pervasive, but seen through an intimate window. I felt the pain and loss in the resolute set of Joe Biden’s face. This was a nation’s mission, but born of a family’s loss.

We are moved by such things. We are, despite our proclivities for fractious discord, indelibly caught up in one another, in the common motivations of humanity. At a level deeper than our discords, we know we are family. When a menace invades such private spaces, when it roils the expression of a face we know, we are moved. We are motivated to act.

So it is that I admire the assertion of will, the pledge to find a way to end all cancer. But alas, it is misguided.

President Obama likened curing “cancer” to reaching the moon, and were the analogy robust, we might indeed see it done. But the analogy falls from the sky.

Even those decades ago when President Kennedy committed us to the moon, we had in hand the technologies to get there. We knew where there was; it was a single destination. There was one, clear, achievable mission.

The cure for all cancer is not a single mission, but many. Cancer is not one disease, but many. Ending cancer is not one destination like the moon, but more like the scattershot of stars in the cosmos. Getting there will depend on innovations yet to be conceived. When we know so little of the ultimate ways, we are ill advised to assert that presidential will reliably presupposes them all.

We should continue to foster and fund the already impressive advances against cancer. We have seen considerable success. We struggle, too, against great frustration born of ignorance we may hope to overcome.

But we already know the short list of lifestyle practices — avoiding tobacco, eating optimally, being active routinely, sleeping adequately, dissipating stress effectively, and nurturing our social connections — that can not only help prevent a large percentage of all cancers and an even greater majority of other leading disease killers including dementia, but can even modify the contributions of DNA to our defense. Studies show that lifestyle practices can throw the epigenetic switches that forestall the advent of cancer, and its progression once begun.

I humbly urge you, Madam/Mr. President, to promise us a mission we know can be fulfilled, and lead us in the keeping of it.

Admittedly, this flight plan of mine is rather pedestrian in contrast to far-flung stars, the shine of Nobel Prizes. Progress is gauged in simple, lifestyle choices every citizen arguably owns. But if so homely a route, so long not taken, leads to the most luminous of prizes, surely in this instance those ends fully justify such means.

By asking you to lead, I am not refuting the relevance of personal responsibility. But the choices we all make are ultimately subordinate to the choices we all have. You have something to say about the choices we all have.

In those places around the world where longevity, vitality, and peace at the end of life prevail, it is not courtesy of citizens battling against the currents of their culture. It is where the currents of culture lead toward, rather than away from, just such blessings.

Here, we wring our hands not just about cancer, but dementia, stroke, and heart disease; about rampant obesity and the rise of type 2 diabetes in our children. Yet, we continue to peddle multi-colored marshmallows to those very children, as ‘part of a complete breakfast.’ You might persuade us out of our insouciant stupor, prod us to ask: what part?

In our country, we encourage good and moderate food choices, even as we market food willfully engineered to be addictive. Where is the outrage against such hypocrisy? You might lead us in outrage, and by opposing its reasons, help us end them. But alas, its that’s money thing again.

Ending cancer is not a moonshot; it is, for now, a pipe dream, sprinkled with stardust. But we could banish tobacco to the ashtray of history’s bad ideas, and you could lead us there. We could end the subordination of what diet could do for the health of people and planet alike to predatory profiteering, and you could lead us there. We could be a culture that doesn’t feel compelled to count our every step, because we consider our native, animal vitality and the chance to exercise it a reason to count our blessings; and you could lead us there.

Good may, of course, issue from reaching for the stars; or, more parochially, for that proverbial bird in the bush. Good may issue from ardent aspiration. But there is the danger of promises that cannot be kept, and the disillusionment they engender.

Please beware the reach that exceeds our grasp. That may serve to rattle the bushes, but will never claim their contents. Those bushes are home to things with feathers, flighty ever.

We have known for two decades and more how to eliminate some 80% of all chronic disease; we have known how to enhance the length and vitality of life. Please, make us the generation that turns what we have long known into what we routinely do to advance the human condition. Lead us, and persuade us, to treasure what’s in hand.

And please, beware the conflation of will for way. That itch may tempt your hands to clench, those fists to pound the lectern as you proclaim the inclinations of your power, and glare past the horizon. In the hush that follows, you may open your hand to find the ruin of a beautiful, luminous bird that was in your hand all along. As it is, and has long been, in the hands of us all.

MaxCo Advisors

April, 2016

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Internet of Things Is Changing How Media and Entertainment Companies Operate

IoT is helping helping industry marketers gather (and make sense of) valuable data.

While the “internet of things” is still in the early stages of development, the media and entertainment industry already has many of the digital building blocks in place to make it a reality. Large publishers and broadcasters—many of which control the content and its delivery—have switched to digital business models and have the network and IT infrastructure to support high-speed transmission, new formats (e.g., 3-D, 4-D, 4-K ultra HD, high dynamic range, virtual reality) and multichannel delivery, as explored in the new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Media and Entertainment Things: What Marketers Need to Know Now.”

Because a growing percentage of media and entertainment content is consumed on digital and mobile devices, the number of industry-related IoT connections is rising. In its “State of the Market: The Internet of Things 2015” report, Verizon Communications found that IoT connections on its network in the media and entertainment vertical increased 120% in 2014 compared with 2013. The industry was third in terms of growth, behind manufacturing (204%) and finance and insurance (128%).

Other research reveals similar growth potential. An April 2015 survey of worldwide business executives by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) found that while the average per-company global IoT spending by media and entertainment organizations wasn’t remarkable when compared with other industries, it was expected to increase nearly 54% over the next three years, to $72.6 million in 2018 from $47.2 million in 2015. And as a percentage of average company revenues, this spending was 0.57%, second only to the travel, transportation and hospitality industry.

The same study found that the bulk of IoT activity in this industry involved the use of apps on smartphones, tablets or other digital devices. More than six in 10 global media and entertainment executives polled said they monitored customer data through mobile apps. To a lesser extent, survey respondents also reported IoT use in production and distribution operations to track product flow (33.3%), the use of digital sensors in products (12.5%), tracking devices in business locations (8.3%) and customer wearables (4.2%).

While nearly all types of media and entertainment businesses will benefit from the IoT, publishers and broadcasters are ahead of the curve. Many can already harvest various forms of data—location, behavioral, consumer-preference and demographic among them—from a variety of devices and systems, construct detailed consumer profiles and use them to create and instantly deliver personalized content across multiple screens.

Other companies seeking a piece of the media and entertainment industry IoT pie include telecom and cable service providers, advertising and marketing agencies, information technology firms, consumer electronics manufacturers, TV and movie studios, sports organizations, recreational facilities, event promoters, gaming companies, casinos and many others.

This Is (Going To Be) Big: How the Internet of Things Is Transforming Travel

Mobile Devices Play A Key Role In The Travel IoT

Whether it’s monitoring the performance of airline engines, enabling keyless entry to hotel rooms or helping tourists find their way around Disney World, the internet of things (IoT) is creating exciting opportunities for the travel and hospitality industry. By connecting smart devices, systems, processes and people in new ways, it is streamlining the back-end operations of airlines, hotels, resorts, cruise lines and rental car fleets.

At the same time, data from these connections is helping marketers deliver more personalized campaigns and enhanced traveler experiences. Simply put, the IoT is helping this highly competitive and schedule-driven industry turn information into action, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “The Internet of Things: What Travel and Hospitality Marketers Need to Know Now.”

As technology becomes cheaper and more powerful, much of the innovation has shifted toward enabling these smart devices and systems to communicate with each other and with larger systems. Many travel and hospitality brands already have some IoT functionality in their back-end operations and are experimenting with ways to put the technology to work for customers. With potential to transform nearly all aspects of the travel experience, the IoT will enable these companies to collect and integrate large data sets from different sources and instantly personalize traveler experiences.

Travel and hospitality companies are under constant pressure to provide better service at the lowest possible cost. For this reason, they have been early movers with the IoT, at least by some accounts.

According to an April 2015 study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the industry topped the list with regard to current IoT spending per company. The firm reported that industry executives worldwide expected their organizations to spend an average of $128.9 million each on IoT initiatives in 2015, or 0.60% of revenues.

While nearly all types of travel businesses are likely to benefit from the IoT to some degree, larger hotel chains and airlines are leading the charge out of the gate. On the enterprise side, many have IoT systems already in place to boost efficiency and streamline operations. Hotels manage use and maintenance of their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), security, plumbing, elevator and other facilities-related systems. Airlines employ sensors to gather real-time information from aircraft parts and systems that are then used to track flight data, optimize fuel consumption and anticipate maintenance issues.

In a March 2015 survey of 200 airline IT executives worldwide conducted by Airline Business for IT company RSW/US SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), 86% of respondents believed that the IoT would deliver clear benefits in the next three years, and 37% had already allocated budget.

eMarketer, January 21, 2016
– See more at: http://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Internet-of-Things-Transforming-Travel/1013487?ecid=NL1001#sthash.K5TmC9El.dpuf

 

MaxCoAdvisors
January, 2016

Be Careful Not to Lie To An Uber.

We were dressed and ready to go out for a dinner and theatre evening. We turned on a ‘night light’, turned the answering machine on, covered our pet parrot and put the cat in the backyard. We ordered an Uber ride though the app on my smartphone. The Uber arrived, and we opened the front door to leave the house. As we walked out the door, the cat we had put out in the yard scooted back into the house. We didn’t want the cat shut in the house because she always tries to get at the parrot. My wife walked on out to the Uber, while I went back inside to get the cat. The cat ran upstairs, with me in hot pursuit.

Waiting in the Uber, my wife didn’t want the driver to know that the house would be empty for the night, so she explained to the Uber driver that I would be out soon. “He’s just going upstairs to say good-bye to my mother“.

A few minutes later, I got into the Uber. “Sorry I took so long”, I said, as we drove away. “That stupid lady was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her butt with a coat hanger to get her to come out. She tried to take off, so I grabbed her by the neck. Then, I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked, so I hauled her downstairs and tossed her out into the backyard. She’d better not crap in the vegetable garden again“!

The silence in the Uber was deafening.

 

MaxCo Advisors

January 2016

 

Heros. David Bowie, January 10th, 2016

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh,
just for one day

———————————

Good Night Major Tom.

MaxCo Advisors
January 11th 2016

The “F” Words You are Ignoring and the “G-Spot” You Need to Remember

It seems to me that many people today yearn for happiness, joy, and love – all terrific things –but strive seemingly, to no avail whatsoever.

We live in a world with so many choices, and resources, and freedoms, and so much technology, yet so many of us seem to live lives that are filled with even MORE stress and precipitously LESS enjoyment than ever. Why is this? What are we missing?

There are, of course, many ways to try to answer this question, but over the past year I have had the chance to experience that there are, indeed, predictable patterns of perception in people (nice alliteration). That is, there are ways of examining and labeling our experience, and of the events that occur in our lives, that lead many of us to feel constricted and sometimes confused with life.

Conversely, I have also met a few amazing people who consistently experience a life filled with abundance and purpose. They are those who lead meaningful lives, and they are truly, genuinely and authentically happy, and it’s rarely, if ever, because their lives are any easier than yours or mine.

The remarkable thing is that no matter how blessed a life may be with health, romance and finance, family, close friends, opportunities to learn and grow, and a chance to give back, the number one pattern that denigrates, and for some people, completely destroys their lives, is expectations.

That’s the catch, and enigma.


 

If you really want to be stressed, all you have to do is expect life and all the people in it, to think, behave, speak, and act the way you have predetermined they “should.” If you hang-on to your expectations, I can guarantee you plenty of stress and pain.

So, it occurs to me, that we all have different values, beliefs, fears, habits, and needs. That’s the reason why even the most kind and loving person you know can, in an instant, be insensitive, mean-spirited, snarky, or at least unconscious of the impact they may have on someone else, including you.

Therefore, if the only way one can be happy is for everyone to act or communicate every moment in ways that meet your own expectations, you might as well best plan on a life of continuous disappointment, frustration and pain – and that’s a miserable way to be. It is to me, for sure.

What’s the solution to being disappointed all the time? Trust that people do the best they can with the resources they have. When you experience someone doing something unconscious, it’s helpful to remember that it’s rarely ever about you, and almost always just that person feeling so much stress and pressure that they have literally activated their, what I call, loony mode. People in loony mode can go blind in a moment. It happens to the very best of us. It’s part of being human. We can’t expect anyone to be perfect all the time.

So, what I’ve newly experienced for a pleasurable and satisfying life is to trade your expectations for appreciation. The moment you do, your whole world transforms.

You know how it feels when people expect you to give them something, it takes away the gift of spontaneous surprise and the joy you’re able to feel from giving. By contrast, when YOU appreciate whatever life or people bring you, you are choosing to guarantee openness and invite the joy and wonder that young children have … before we spoil them with ever-expanding material things or events, and create unrealistic expectations in life to meet their desires and needs.

So much frustration, angst, hurt, depression, and sadness burns from consistently expecting people to be loving, generous, courteous, compassionate, proactive, present, supportive, caring, etc.

I have found that sometimes people will be all of these things, if they feel secure in their life, or, if you are lucky to know one of those people with a habitually bright disposition. Just maybe you are lucky enough to have these kind experiences with close friends who love you and have the high standards to consistently act this way. But, the larger the group of people you interact with, the greater the chance that you’ll receive a variety of responses that will behave in a certain way back to you, you simply will not experience much joy, well-being or wonder.

Enter the power of the F-words… Forgiveness and Faith.

Other than perhaps gratitude – which is the underpinning of both – no two human emotions have had a greater impact on the quality of my life. We will always carry anger and hurt in our hearts as long as we have expectations of other people and life conditions we can’t control. Forgiveness is really an understanding that the only person you hurt when you’re upset (no matter how justified it may be) is yourself. Even if everything in you wants to blame someone else, consider giving yourself the gift of forgiving your expectations.

Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies or setting yourself on fire and also hoping the smoke will choke those who you wish to harm. Now that’s nuts.


The author Tony Robbins has spoken about the time he met Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s and was so moved by his ability to be imprisoned unjustly and yet come out and forgive the very people who took away a quarter-a-century of his life. He asked him how he “survived” those years incarcerated. Mandela told him he didn’t survive – he “prepared.” He prepared to forgive so that if, in fact, he did survive, he would be able to let go and be free to grow. He knew that only in letting go would he be able to lead himself and others to transform his beloved home of South Africa.

Mandela is often quoted as saying, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear… Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.” He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Nelson Mandela understood fundamentally that forgiveness is not a gift we give others; it is a gift we give ourselves. It is true freedom from stories of our past and from the pain, fear, and anger that can eat away at our mind and body and soul. Mandela’s antiquity, like all our pasts, is just bravery in training.

But Nelson Mandela is not the only person capable of this kind of radical forgiveness. The truth is: we all are. When we do, we raise our standard.

Ask yourself, as I ask myself: What if everything in life really did happen for a reason? What if everything really did have a purpose and it always served us in the long run? What if life was always happening FOR us, not TO us? What if even the pain and problems had a higher purpose in the growth and evolution of our soul and our own purpose?

If you were to look back on your life, I am sure you’ve had some painful experiences that you would never want to experience again, and yet, thank your Higher Power, your Universe, your Spiritual Being or whatever you chose to call It, because IT caused you to develop a depth of insight or caring, or a level of inner strength, that shapes your compassion, and the greatness of what you can give to others.

When we tap into this level of consciousness, we can find a higher meaning in our past fear and pain. Our faith can move us beyond the experience itself and through the higher purpose we can free and strengthen our spirit.

To me, it’s the people who give-up the story of what happened to them and find a higher meaning who, in the end, are the ones who lead, grow, give, and experience life’s deepest joy, gratitude and fulfillment.

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself, not a gift you give someone else.

Over the last couple of years, we all have witnessed insane tragedy in schools, movie theaters, and public shootings, massacre and bloodbaths in Paris, horror in the skies over Egypt, carnage and murders in Mali, and suicide bombings in Beirut.

I am truly in awe of, and am struck deeply by, those people who through their faith have found a deeper meaning, and have found ways to forgive and use what has happened to them to help others, whether it be those who lost a child at Sandy Hook in CT, family and friends in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, or loved ones in Paris.

These people have experienced something way beyond physical pain; this level of atrocity is truly spiritual pain. Spiritual pain is a level of injustice that is almost unfathomable, but if you can make it through, you develop an almost indestructible spiritual strength. That strength reinforces the ability to reach and help others.

We all think our problems are so huge, but there is always someone out there who is being asked to bear even more. To be truly free and happy in this life, we must recognize that our expectations are limiting and are not the finish line. Our biggest problem may very well be the belief that we are not supposed to have problems! But we do – that’s life. We are powerless over that – so let’s not worry or fester over this, rather let’s change our attitude and behavior in real and tangible ways, to manage them. I have heard the phrase “just let problems pass through you”…not avoid them, or let them pass over us, or dodge them, or side-step them – that just avoids addressing them. Letting them pass through us allows us to experience them but does not allow them to suffocate or stifle us in such as ways as to stymie our actions.

We are presented each day with the opportunity to live life on life’s terms. Our true power is in our problems as they release our resourcefulness, willingness and actions, and cause us to grow in order to respond consciously and compassionately to them. Radical forgiveness and faith in guidance or a higher meaning in our experience is, I would suggest, an (the) answer

Clinical research shows biochemical changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain when we are angry and conversely, when we choose to forgive. Numerous studies prove that hosting anger and chronic emotional distress erodes physical health, alters cardiovascular homeostasis, impoverishes sleep quality, and stimulates the production of stress-related hormones like cortisol. Conversely, forgiveness promotes wellbeing, cardiovascular health, and may increase survival rates. It has for me.

So how do we do it? How do we find it in our hearts? Try channeling a role model like Nelson Mandela or parents of Sandy Hook, or, tap a time in the past when you found forgiveness and choose to unleash the healing power again today.

When did you forgive even before someone said they were sorry? When can you choose to forgive without requiring an apology, or any conditions, or even a change of heart? Where can you own a higher meaning and finally set yourself free? How can you just let it go?

Forgive includes the word “g i v e”.

It all goes back to trading-in those useless expectations. And one way to get in the habit of this is through activating gratitude. I try to make a daily habit of finding a few minutes to be grateful for as many little things as I can think of every single day. What’s interesting is that we are incapable of being angry and grateful simultaneously. So let’s get grateful in a hurry! Cultivating this emotion each day creates the “mental and spiritual connectivity” so that it’s easy to forgive for what others get stuck and stressed over. Our ability to feel, or actually BE grateful more often over little things will, I believe, result in the capacity to forgive quickly and more easily and free yourself of pain and fear.

…And I’m going to place the blame on others.

Finally, if you’re still not forgiving then you are STILL blaming something outside yourself – which is quite normal. Most people are not good at forgiveness at all, but they’re good at blame. It’s human nature, and it’s easy. So consequently, if we’re going to blame someone for all our pain, then we’ve got to blame them for all our joy, too. Don’t we? If we’re going to blame our higher power for all our tragedies, we’ve got to blame our higher power for all our gifts. If you’re going to blame your family and friends for being so terrible, you’ve got to blame them for the strength it gave you later on.

So let’s go ahead and pick someone in our life today and go blame them for their impact on our life. Blame them intelligently and consciously. Tell them all the good we all have because of the “gift” they gave us. This kind of blame makes forgiveness automatic because instead of expecting anything, you are appreciating their impact. Try it for a bit, and use the F words of forgiveness and faith, and their partner G-spot, Gratitude, to set yourself free

Remember: What’s wrong will always be there; so is what’s right. Growth, joy, new insights, purpose, happiness, freedom, and love are just a little forgiveness and faith away.

Happy New Year!

 

Alastair

MaxCo Advisors

January 2016

 

 

When in Doubt, Copy

Sing, “If You Can Make it There, You’ll Make it Anywhere”…

…and Other Learnings from Entrepreneurs in…

China.

A story shared by Isabelle Roughol, International editor at LinkedIn.

A few weeks before markets crashed and the word China came to be systematically juxtaposed with “crisis,” “devaluation” or “slowdown,” I went on a study tour of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The picture our group was presented with was quite different: a booming economy where opportunities abound if only you could sustain the pressure. You’d expect the people we met – tech executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists – to be upbeat about the economy. They live in a world where success depends largely on believing you’ll succeed. But it’s also true that as much as China’s slowdown is real, the growth rate it does experience – 7% in dubious official data, 6.3% according to economists’ consensus – would be the envy of any US or European government. There are real entrepreneurs creating things at a speed that boggles the mind. Here are a few things they taught us.

When in doubt, copy.

Our study group met with Baidu, Xiaomi, Alibaba, Tencent and more. Nothing has felt entirely original or unseen in Silicon Valley. In fact, a fun game to play is to mix and match Chinese companies with their US inspiration: Alibaba is the Amazon of China, Baidu is Google, Xiaomi is Apple, Didi Kuaidi is Uber, Sina Weibo is Twitter, Renren is Facebook… It’s called the C2C, or Copy to China, model.

Some companies go so far as to copy US sites to the pixel. Exhibit A: Jianshu is (nearly) Medium. But that model is on its way out: the biggest companies may have been inspired by US counterparts, but they quickly morphed to better fit the particular Chinese market. The failure to adapt to local idiosyncrasies is one reason, though by no means the only one, why so many US companies (Google, ebay, Amazon…) failed to make their mark in China. It’d be a gross underestimation of Chinese entrepreneurs to think they can only copy. And why reinvent the wheel? First you catch up, then you pass. They’ve done all this in a decade or so. Where will they be in 2025?

You don’t know what fast means. The Chinese market is so insanely competitive, if you haven’t implemented your idea within a couple months of having it, someone else has. One entrepreneur we met was developing 20 apps – 40 really if you count the iOS and Android versions – and has already created, piloted and ultimately killed another 20. When we talked, one B2B app he built was just a few months old and on track for $15 million revenue this year.

The pressure matches the opportunity: Six-day workweeks seem to be common, not just for founders but for employees as well, and I suspect a few must have laughed at the outrage following the Amazon work culture piece in the New York Times several weeks ago. Remember that? Par for the course here. Which is why I say, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

You know nothing about scale either. You don’t build an app for a couple million users; you start with a couple million users. One app with 300,000 active users was casually referred to as “a pilot.” Tencent acquired up to 200 million (!) mobile payment users during Chinese New Year by building a digital version of the traditional red envelopes. China is one of two, maybe three, self-contained Internet markets. Everywhere else, you have to build international in from day 1 if you hope to appreciate and experience scale.

In China – the other two would be the US and India – the domestic market will keep you busy a while. One sight really brought this home: looking down on the city from the Shanghai World Financial Center, I had in my sights more living souls than in all of Australia.

Your users may be here today, gone tomorrow. Over and over again, we were told that Chinese users are sophisticated, pragmatic and open to new things. Even older users will send stickers on WeChat or sell their wares on Alibaba. (Caveat: we visited urban China and the Chinese people we met were very much the 1%. There are three Chinas: the international metros like Shanghai and Shenzhen, the tier 2 and tier 3 cities home to the manufacturing masses (Nanning), and rural China.) There is little friction to trying something new – and little friction to leaving one app for the next best thing. To succeed, you must be hot, new and in front.

You can never throw too many people at a problem. While showing us around Baidu, our host sheepishly admitted the company only started with 70 employees. When a Tencent app isn’t really popular anymore, they don’t kill it – they keep two people on staff to maintain the app until it dies its own slow natural death. Everyone’s eyes – especially the product managers’ – in the room widened: do you know what we would do for two more headcounts on our products?

This may not last much longer though: a Shanghai venture capitalist told us the war for talent is heating up. Wage inflation is high, and so is turnover. (The economic slowdown may temper this.) A developer here already costs half of what they do in Silicon Valley: cheaper sure, but not cheap enough to hire blindly.

Nothing’s so different as it looks. If you’re an older tech company, you’re wondering how to move your desktop business to be more mobile and social without compromising your legacy revenue lines. If you’re an upstart app, you’re rushing to capture more of the market before your competitor does. And if you’re in the transport business, Uber is your biggest nightmare. Ha! Different language, same problems.

Do you have experience building tech companies in China? What else would you point out to an entrepreneur moving into the Chinese market?

With thanks to all our Chinese hosts for organizing a fantastic trip and to the many colleagues who helped me put together my thoughts and let me read their notes.

This article was first featured in Entrepreneurship, International Trade & Development, Summer 2015.

Alastair
MaxCo Advisors
December 15th, 2015