4 Reasons Why You Should Read Influence Empire – The Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition

It goes without saying that if you want to stay relevant commercially, understanding digital landscape as well rising technology is critical. Understanding the super powers within the landscape then is equally critical and there are not that many super powers we need to bother truly understand, in which US and China are the leaders of the industry. This book, which to me read nearly like gripping fast paced thriller than dry business book, is it.  Let me give you four reasons why you should invest your time on this book.

Self disclosure, I have visited Tencent office in 2017 in China as the company I worked for partners with Tencent. I was in awe then in their advance technology (they took us through gamification and integrated offer that has done my company good in China) but equally the rapid deployment of their plan. I remembered they talked about acquiring NBA right to broadcast, using the analytics to help monetize and then link with their existing program. They have studio already then, I asked how long to get it set up and the answer is no more than six months to build and scale up. They had me then enthralled as speed is always the essence in maximum monetization.

It read like the history of all Tech Giants and The Powerful Founders and Leaders in China

Despite its title is Tencent, the book talked about nearly all the Tech Giants in China and its founders. You’ll found Alibaba and Jack Ma frequently in the book, but also Didi (China Giant Ride Hailing) and its founders, Cheng Wei, Meituan and Wang Xing, its founders also featured strongly. Within Tencent itself you’ll get the history of Pony Ma, of course but also other Giant Leaders such as Mark Ren who built the gaming business for Tencent with its League of Legends and Fortnite, Tony Zhang who is the Chief of Technology Officer of Tencent who built QQ with Pony and continue to serve Tencent through all its growth and technology advancement. The story telling is as such that it does not do dry biography but truly took the readers in fast paced environment that digital commerce is, with its gritty, (commercial) near death and glory experience.

It took the reader into nearly All digital sector growth in China – and the world

It just doesn’t talk about social media that is WeChat or Weixin, but also took the readers through ride hailing, e-commerce platform, digital payment, ride hailing, gaming (including mobile gaming), music and cloud even inchoate or nascent ones like metaverse and next generation automotive like autonomous or EV. In every single area, Lulu took the readers beyond just its inception and dynamic in China. For example in Gaming, Lulu talked about gaming industry in US as well as Korean, both at the demand end as well as the supply growth. We will get introduced to players like Riot, NetEase, Riot. You’ll come across the famous games such as PUBG, DOTA, Fortnite and League of Legends and how they are all bumped into one another in the market. Equally you get an exciting story on how Uber attempted to enter (unsuccessfully) to China market and ended up agreeing to partnership with Tencent.

You get behind-the-door work environment and ethics that make China Giants successful and survive in every turmoil they encounter

I love highlighting my finding and share with my dearest friends as part of learning together. I have so many pages of sharing. The word ‘hard working’ doesn’t even begin to describe the work ethos the founders of the giants as well their team to go through. It is nearly 24 hours of work for days pre-launch and when crisis hits. Travelling extensively for fund raising and when in pursuit of technology / commercial strategic partnership doesn’t explain the timing and intensity of these travels. The love they have and the pride for their works, clearly shine through every word Lulu shared in the book. There is a shift from being a copier, to beating their competitors in functionalities, then in technology, that took place proudly and importantly with depth of structural planning in a world where changes can happen overnight and ruin the carefully crafted plan. Innovation (many out of necessity to not commercially die) burst from one page to another on monthly and perhaps weekly basis. Understanding of the customers and partners clearly a differentiating factor that many founders spend countless hours in the market intimately (hanging out with taxi drivers days on end, playing game obsessively, etc). I find it impossible not to get inspired from one or more of pages to just give a go to be extremely good and performing at work, or even if not out of being inspired perhaps out of fear being irrelevant with this kind of competitors, fiercely hard working, innovative and deeply in tune with its market. To read how the founders often roll their sleeves to code, to sit in the market, to interact with customers, to know the product deeply, it is simply read like an instruction book on how to grow as successful professional and leader in any field – and what will happen when you are not doing it. Being irrelevant nearly overnight is not impossible, a scary possibility to me.

Technology Progress was Told but in Layman Language

At the end of the day, it is still a commercial technology book so there needs to be commercial and as well technology piece being shared. You’ll get the inception story of QR code vs NFC (near field communication), you’ll get the story of game engine (such as Unreal) as well cyber security that underlie many of the digital commerce, but in a language we layman can understand. Although for someone with tiny bit understanding of technology, I wish there are more of these in the book, to peek Tencent and other China giants under the hood in term of their powerful engine, but to be read like fast-paced thriller, I can understand why Lulu tone this down and I will not be surprise the information few far in between. Yet, it is to me enough to be the backdrop of engaging business story vs it becomes the main and business the backdrop.

It is Story About People at The Heart of the Story and Story about Digital Ecosystem

What truly strongly represented in the book is the relationship amongst the Giants and their Founders. You get a bit of sense in term of how Pony Ma responded to China Government style of regulation vs Jack Ma and the impact of their different styles. You get a story how Bao Fan, who is China major PE player put together the Meituan and Dianping deal as well as Didi and Kuaidi deal, both are perhaps the largest deals in the digital sector in China perhaps as well in the world. How Martin Lau deal with Daniel Ek from Spotify and as well Andy Ng deals with many of the leaders from records who got hurt with earlier days of Tencent. There are a lot of to be learnt from both their successes and mistakes for all of us working in commercial world. Listening obsessively to others so that even between the line you can read well, turning the insight into offers that is impossible to walk away, building long term relationship that can salvage difficult nearly break situation and ability to walk away from it all, these are discipline one must acquired as well as the art of doing them well, especially as one grow (or aspire) to be accomplished senior leaders.

I cease reading anything else except the basic magazines during my time reading this book, it is that enthralling and insightful. Coming away with urgency in term of speed, innovativeness, enhanced stakeholder management technique and simply motivation to go all in for everything I do. Above all, it is just really captivating book to read !  Well done Lulu.

Verdict : A must read !
I got mine from Periplus

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