An Entrepreneur and Her New Journey to Globalization

Consumer Staples, Communication Author: Lina Peng Sep 21, 2023 05:40 PM (GMT+8)

In 2023, Li Shuang, the "staff No.1" of Yiou and former vice president of Yiou, graduated from HSBC Business School of Peking University and joined EqualOcean led by Huang Yuanpu, a global business think tank. She assumed the role of partner, responsible for external business affairs and internal organizational operations.


Having grown up in rural areas and traveled extensively around the world , Li Shuang has departed from the public-sector jobs and embarked on multiple startups. She has always "persisted in taking adventures and adhering to her dreams." Smaking a fresh start, this time she is fully committed to going global, accompanying and supporting a new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs in building global organizations and brands, helping them find direction and a clear path.

Never stop venturing into uncharted waters

"Taking adventures" is Li Shuang's life motto. Growing up in a small village, she went all the way to college in northeast China, while working in the capital city Beijing after graduation. Giving up a secure and sought-after job in the public sector, she chose  an arduous career in start-up businesses. In her thirties, Li Shuang traveled around over 10 areas and returned to college from the presidential position. Now, once again, she is back in the frontier as an entrepreneur.

In the eyes of an experienced senior, Li Shuang must be somewhat "unreasonable". But, there is an underlying force, according to her, which drives her away from comfort and predictability.

In 2023, Li Shuang graduated from HSBC Business School of Peking University. Declining a well-paid position in a multinational corporation, she joined EqualOcean as one of the three partners.

One spring afternoon years ago, Li Shuang was admitted to Yiou as "staff No.1". Her first project there was to find an office for the company which was within the budget and not far from the subway station. Over the years, she pushed herself to the limit in different positions as the company expanded and demonstrated her passion and capacity from time to time. When she turned 26, she was promoted to Vice President.

From Yiou to EqualOcean, Li Shuang has devoted herself to business research, only that her perspective has been changing with trends. Back then, the Internet industry and OTO were emerging in China, later the science and technology innovation. For the coming ten to twenty years, Chinese brands going global will constitute the mainstream business discourse. As the new era draws the curtain, Li Shuang challenges to hold the torch.


Li Shuang presided over "2023 Globalization Investment Trends" roundtable discussion at ESG2023

Bridging the gap, connecting the world

Li Shuang refuses to sell out and lose her passion no matter when she was a novice in workplace with no fancy background or when she has grown to be a corporate management. When she shared her career path to the new recruits in EqualOcean this year, she gave similar advice. Dream and passion, as far as Li Shuang can see, are not something one is born with. On the contrary, most people need to take constant adventures to be able to make out their dreams clearly and maintain their passion —  stirring  the waters of life, see what precipitates.

From traditional media to Internet information platform, now to globaliztion think tank, Li Shuang has always been striving to mitigate "information asymmetry". Such a seed was planted in her heart when she stood by a hulking TV as she spent her childhood in rural China. The highly advanced communication infrastructure and media platforms often submerge contemporary people in the waters of information. However, "information asymmetry" still exists in every sector. Thus, building an impartial information platform remains a worthy cause to Li Shuang.

In terms of going global, Chinese entrepreneurs are "late comers". Though the new generation of them has developed a rather broad horizon, there's still much to draw from the hundreds of years of experience accumulated by their west predecessors in multi-national business operation and management. In the wider world of Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, brands from China are still barely prominent.

Growing up under the background of China's accelerated integration into the world, Li Shuang represents an unprecedented generation. Before the Internet swept across the country, children living in rural areas were only able to see from a limited TV repertoire a colorful aspect of a different world. From then onwards, they have dedicated their life to chasing a greater world and breaking physical and digital boundaries. In doing so, they bridge gaps bewteen various fields and sectors.

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Li Shuang went on a study tour to Canada

Su Hua, Founder of Kuaishou, who was also raised in a small village, once said, "The world is changing day by day, and there are a lot of friends who are using all kinds of high-tech products to change the world and make it a better place. What we do is to record this process. ...Provide people with a platform to record images, information, their observation and description of the world. We hope that everyone will be able to participate in recording the world."

Driven by such motivations, Li Shuang and several generations of Chinese entrepreneurs explore the frontiers in the business world. In the form of products, models, organizations, and brands, they create innovative facilities and technologies which allow for connections among people and nations.

The rhythm of life consonant with the evolution of organizations

After joining EqualOcean, Li Shuang once again picks up the state of starting a cause. Day and night, she replies to work messages, motivates colleagues, and promotes projects.

Back in the days when Yiou was founded, she rotated to several positions. Every time she landed in a new position, she would push herself to achieve optimum records in a shortest possible time so as to lift the ceiling for the team.

As a business analyst on catering and consumer sectors, Li Shuang kept multiple records including the highest views and interviews. In 2016, she launched a video interview program within the company which is much like the TED Talks and interviewed over 200 entrepreneurs. In 2018, she shifted to the BD department and became top sales in the first week, no matter how reluctant she was in the first place.

Though the constant shift of main tasks brought about not a few challenges and once put Li Shuang in anxiety, it certainly constituted one of the major impetus of her speedy promotion into management. It was also her responsibility as a founding member — setting examples for junior staff and defending for the validity of management decisions.

Every team will encounter various bumps on their journey forward. Most of the time, the bumps involve no right or wrong, only that discordance occurs when the direction and velocity between "the team" and "persons" deviate. As a management staff, one can only strive for balance between "sense" and "sensibility".

In retrospect, Li Shuang recalled her distress, self-pity, and self-denial as colleagues recruited by her left or struggled when Yiou was transforming from a media platform to a research institute. She was afraid that all would come into ruin in her hands and her devotion would cease to be "meaningful".

In pursuit of inner peace, Li Shuang chose to step away temporarily from the fast pace of life and resorted to introspection and retrospection. Between 2017 and 2021, she went on to the US and Peking University for MBA and EMBA education respectively. Later on, she joined Thoughtworks as the director of digitalization strategy. Then the pandemic hit and lasted for a period. In 2023, Li Shuang is now back to the starting point with a more placid mentality. She will no longer be caught up in "the inevitable" and "the unknown".

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Li Shuang pursued EMBA education at Peking University HSBC Business School and graduated in 2023

Over the past decade, Li Shuang engaged in profound dialogues with founders of thousands of companies and witnessed the rise and fall of countless "business trends". Most importantly, she experienced in the frontline the cycle of an organization starting from scratch and expanding to scale. Besides, she was also part of a 30-year-old multi-national consulting firm exploring new business in China.

"No matter how many times you have succeeded in founding a business, you do not miss any single obstacle and challenge when starting again. It's lucky enough to be able to embark on a new journey with trustworthy friends. I believe that those who believe and persevere, rather than those who start out to be most popular, will live till the end." said Li Shuang. She now accumulates a deeper understanding towards team management and empowerment. For a rapidly expanding start-up with a lot of trial and error, it's far more crucial that the vision and state of the organization and its talents are in sync. First-class talents may not be the most appropriate staff for the company and their relationship may not last for a long time.

With the inner driving force becoming increasingly solid, the uncertainty in outer environment has turned out to be stimulation and opportunites for Li Shuang. Firmly believing in a vision and her own strength, she now focuses every day on achieving every small tasks, perhaps one insightful article, or perhaps one valuable new recruit. This is the most harmonic and peaceful mindset an entrepreneur can hope for.

Being the "eyes" of globalization

In 2023, globalization has become increasingly chased after in the business circles of China, which constitutes a conspicuous contrast with the gloomy economic background. Top management of companies of different fields and scales organize business trips to foreign countries in order to locate potential markets and resources somewhere outside mainland China.

In the process of going global, the services and support one company would need tend to be highly sophisticated which not one single "service provider" can offer in a one-stop manner. What Li Shuang is leading the team to achieve now, is to modulize the resources in each region and each sector accumulated by EqualOcean during the past five years, and to piece the modules together into a comprehensive "goglobal map".

It is unadvisable for start-up companies to define products or services in a single-sided fashion, while ideally they should extract from universal needs a widely applicable solution, even though this "universal" is more often than not highly restricted. The core value of EqualOcean's research is to approach business decision-makers and frontline executors extensively and intensively. By talking to "presidents of global business", we would be able to know the obstacles which the companies are facing in certain development phases and lay the foundation for EqualOcean's service system.

Take organization as an example. Before initiating overseas businesses, a "CEO" needs to make several essential decisions concerning organization adjustment: to first carry out research into an unfamiliar market, then set up an operation team, or to assemble a team in the first place, then adjust accordingly during the process of development? Is it more appropriate to register a regional branch in the overseas market, or to consign local businesses to a local partner, or a combination of both?

No matter what the final decision is, it's undoubted that companies going global are in urgent needs of inter-disciplinary talents with both Chinese and overseas background and the passion of entrepreneurs. While the cultivation of a certain type of professional is often lagged behind market needs, there exists a huge gap between the supply and demand of overseas business managers.

As far as Li Shuang is concerned, EqualOcean is able to cater to the needs in several service forms. Most fundamentally, to solve the problem of information asymmetry. Equip the management with adequate information on how their predecessors have set up overseas departments, built global brands, and coordinated resources before they make decisions. Enlighten them then on which experiences are highly practical and where they should involve creative judgements. Such information has been generated during EqualOcean's daily research.


Li Shuang unveiled "2023 Top 30 Globalization Investors" at ESG2023

Besides that, EqualOcean also resolves to lower "trust cost" in business cooperation. For example, helping companies to select trustworthy and experienced service providers in recruitment, compliance, payment, and branding, of which EqualOcean has carried out relevant appraisal beforehand.

Deeper in the field of organization, EqualOcean also plans to initiate "GoGlobal Academy(GGA)" in 2014. Equipped with EqualOcean's information system and resource networks, professionals of different fields would become qualified goglobal talents and managers.

From Li Shuang's perspective, EqualOcean is comparable to the "eyes of globalization": by discovering the opportunities and challenges of global markets and different needs of goglobal businesses, EqualOcean help them make insightful decisions based on their capabilities and situations. Seeing the future ahead, while seeing the path beneath.