He Xiaopeng, A Chinese Coder Ambitious To Exceed Elon Musk, With Other Two “Musketeers”
Why is this programmer who claimed to exceed Elon Musk and Tesla someday so arrogant? How did he transform himself from an internet entrepreneur to a famous EV maker in China?
“I might be better than Elon sometime”
January 2018, at CES in Las Vegas, USA, Xiaopeng Motors (also known as XMotors, Xpeng) premiered its first model – Xpeng G3, which is also the first Chinese electric vehicle exhibited at CES. Later this year in August, XMotors became a company with a market value of more than 25 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) after completing a 4 billion yuan (approximately 580 million USD) funding round.
“Elon Musk is now better than me, but I might be better in the future.”, He Xiaopeng, the CEO and Chairman of XMotors, said in an interview at CES with Chinese journalist Ai Cheng.
This madcap man is actually a serial entrepreneur, who founded a famous internet company named UCWeb in 2004 and worked as a senior executive in Alibaba from 2014 to 2017. However, Xiaopeng’s success had not been related to the auto industry until he co-founded XMotors and devoted himself to the auto career.
He Xiaopeng’s confidence grows rapidly, as the time to deliver production cars to customers approaching.
On October 24, Programmer Festival in China (originated from the meaning of 1024), the famous VC firm GGV capital held its 2018 Evolving Plus Conference, He Xiaopeng attended and gave a speech, as being a GGV’s LP and an investment portfolio enterprise XMotors’ CEO, claiming that Xpeng G3 would be delivered in December.
Besides the rapid growth of product development, XMotors, the 4-year-old EV carmaker’s employee size has also enlarged fastly after He Xiaopeng joined the company full-time in Aug 2017. The company’s size increased from around 500 staffs to more than 2,600 till Oct 2018.
So, how did He Xiaopeng, a former coder, achieve all these successes in the auto sector, and what or who exactly helped XMotors to achieve all these growths?
The times produce their heroes. Similar to other new EV carmakers in China, XMotors’ significant growth relies on the emerging EV market of China. Meanwhile, He Xiaopeng is not alone. He built a strong core team with complementary capabilities.
The Emerging EV Market in China
The 4th technology revolution, including Artificial Intelligence, Clean Energy, etc., is not only changing the power source of transportation but also greatly expanding traditional vehicles’ function positioning as commute tools by creating whole new usage scenarios. EqualOcean employs a concept of Technology Commute to describe the future picture of vehicles, which should be intelligent as well as electric powered.
Chinese automobile industry has ushered unprecedented opportunities from the maturity of EV technology and fortune enough to skip developing ICE(Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle’s engine technologies, and directly enter the new EV era together with all traditional automobile powers.
Under the consideration of environmental protection and optimization of energy source structure, the Chinese government has enacted a series of policies (mainly subsidy policy) to support the development of new energy vehicles, and even force automakers to produce a certain percentage of EVs (Dual-point Policy).
According to the sales data of global major EV market from 2005 to 2017, the sales growth trend of China's new energy vehicles (NEV) is considerably outstanding and leading in the world. (The figure below credit to the article of SCMP "The stones in the road for China's 2025 plan on electric vehicles")
Despite the negative growth in overall passenger vehicle sales stricter NEV subsidy policy and dual-point policy, the data from CAAM (China Association of Automobile Manufacturers) indicated the overall sales of NEV still maintained positive growth in 2018.
The optimistic atmosphere of the industry has attracted more and more participants. Traditional carmakers like BYD, BAIC, etc. joined the EV market based on their accumulated industrial experience in past operation. In the second decade of the 21st century, numerous new-generation-EV-maker enterprises have been established and sequentially joined the battlefield with brilliant and innovative ideas.
XMotors is one of so-called new generation EV makers, which might be the third one to start delivery to customers in this December, right after NIO and Weltmeister.
Comparing to the USA market, China’s carmakers presents a quantity booming. Mergers and acquisitions could be expected and will definitely occur in the near future, which means those carmakers with developed ahead of peers would face fewer threats of being merged when the time comes.
To "running" faster, He Xiaopeng must unite with all talents that can be united to accelerate the pace of XMotors. With a good reputation and former successful career, Xiaopeng did build an exceptional core management team to seeking for greater achievements.
The team, including himself, was called The Three Musketeers by He Xiaopeng.
The three musketeers of XMotors
According to the most updated public information on the official website (until October 23, 2018), the current core management team of XMotors is He Xiaopeng as the Chairman/CEO, Xia Heng as the Co-founder/President and Brian Gu as the Vice chairman/President.
He XiaoPeng, the Soul of XMotors
From the name of the company, we can tell the significance of He Xiaopeng
In the traditional auto industry, a significant amount of companies are actually named after their founders, such as Benz, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Honda, etc. However, this kind of assertive behavior is not prevailing in China before Xiaopeng Motors. Only WEY, the name of another sub-brand belongs to Great Wall Motor, was based from Wei Jianjun - its founder’s name.
“Using your own name exhibits the greatest confidence and sincerity”, He Xiaopeng said.
He Xiaopeng brought XMotors both advantages and disadvantages
Foremost, regarding the user experience design of a smart EV that is heavily dependent on software development, he Xiaopeng's successful experience of internet entrepreneurship brings him reasonable confidence that XMotors must have a comprehensive understanding and be equipped with practical abilities
Besides, Xiaopeng has a particular advantage in attracting capital investment - his background as an ex-Alibaba senior executive more or less nudged Alibaba to invest XMotors in about three months after Xiaopeng officially joined XMotors as CEO in August 2017. However, He Xiaopeng’s lack of experience in automobile industry forced himself to learn all aspects of making cars including the details, step by step.
"In the Internet field, I'm a senior player," He Xiaopeng said in a public speech, "while in the auto industry, I'm just like an elementary school student."
Introduction of professional talents is the only way to bring XMotors on the right track. Luckily, as to the core talents, Xiaopeng displayed a remarkable attraction to professionals. He had successfully introduced Gu Junli (former Tesla technical expert), Liu Minghui (former vice-president of FAW R&D institute), Xiong Qingyun (former P&G Greater China Beauty&Fashion Department), and one of the Three Musketeers mentioned above, Brian Gu (former Asia Pacific J.P. Morgan Chairman of), to XMotors.
The Other Two Musketeers – Xia Heng & Brian Gu
Xia Heng, the early-stage leader of XMotors
Xia Heng’s biography on Baidu Baike (Chinese website similar to Wikipedia) was incredibly simple with only two sentences:
1. Graduated from Tsinghua University, majored in Automobile Engineering.
2. Co-founder of XMotors.
Compared with He Xiaopeng, Xia Heng is rather a doer, who led the company in the first three years, and successfully deliver the Beta vehicle in September 2016. At that time, Chinese new EV makers were marching in place of "making vehicles with PPT", but Xia Heng was the one commented by media as “the man who makes cars without PPT”.
Though Xia Heng is from traditional auto industry, he believes "the gene of the Internet" will be the core competence of XMotors. "Our team is a crossover team with professional auto engineers, as well as internet talents from companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Huawei, etc. Integration of diverse knowledge could really make a difference", said Xia Heng.
Brian Gu, the expert who keeps the team from the financial predicament
On March 1, 2018, XMotors officially had announced that Ph.D. Gu Hongdi (Brian Gu), former Chairman of J.P.Morgan's Investment Bank in Asia Pacific region, would join XMotors as Vice-chairman and President. After joining, Dr. Gu would be responsible for XMotors’ global strategy, finance, fund-raising, international cooperation, merger, and acquisition.
According to the news released on August 15, XMotors held a brand campaign conference named Driving Challenge. At the conference, Ph.D. Gu gave a speech and said that XMotors would raise $30 billion through private equity, debt, and other capitals in order to enhance the company's risk resistance, and be worry-free from raising money through IPO activities.
“The joining of Dr. Gu finally completed ‘The Three Musketeers’, the core management team of XMotors with strong abilities in the internet, financing and strategic integration, as well as automobile manufacturing”, He Xiaopeng once said.
With the help from the other two Musketeers, may He Xiaopeng achieve his ambitious goal of beating Elon Musk and Tesla someday? The product itself and the market will finally give the answer.
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