INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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From TV Hosting to Entrepreneurship and Investment: An Exclusive Interview with Jing Li , Founder of Xing Venture

April 30,2018

As one of the best-known TV hosts in China, Jing Li has many different identities, which also include Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist. According to her, this is because of her curiosity about new things.

How does she manage to deliver excellent performance in so many different areas? In this interview, we will find out about the qualities and transferable skills that are behind her success.

About Jing Li

In 2000, Jing Li quit her enviable job as a TV host for CCTV. After years of effort behind the scenes, she started Fleet Entertainment (东方风行传媒) and created several hit shows including the Super Talk Show (超级访问), Pretty Woman (美丽俏佳人) and the Jing Talk Show (非常静距离). In 2008, Jing Li started LeFeng.com (乐蜂网), which was the first online beauty store to have resident experts and celebrity endorsers. In 2014, VIP.com (唯品会) invested in LeFeng.com and became its biggest shareholder.

In 2017, Jing Li started Xing Venture (星创投), an investment company, which attracted not just celebrities such as Ying Na (那英), Jing Liang (梁静), Wenli Jiang (蒋雯丽) and Jun Dai (戴军), but also well-known technology entrepreneurs such as Hang Zhou (周航) and Jiang Wang (王江). Since its founding, Xing Venture has invested in a number of startups in the area of innovative consumer products.

Although Jing Li says that she became involved in investments because she has a passion for ‘new things in the new era’, she still rationally explains the advantages she was able to bring to investing that were brought about by her years of experience as a successful TV host, which include her massive personal network in fashion, deep insights into female consumer psychology and knowledge of how to utilise popular culture to gain a mass following.

Two distinctive skills that Jing Li has brought to bear on her investments are her strong communication skills and her ability to integrate resources. The former, which she developed from her career as a TV host, helps her to communicate the story of any industry or project well, and the latter helps her to bring together the various parties in the fashion industry, which include celebrities, designers, directors, investors and entrepreneurs.

Luxe.CO: Why did you enter the investment industry and what was your aim when starting Xing Venture?

Jing Li: I’ve always been full of curiosity and ambition.

I successfully turned LeFeng.com from a zero to 2 billion RMB business by integrating content with e-commerce and bringing people from different industries and with different tastes together, at a time when most media participants who had ventured into e-commerce had failed. In 2014, I sold LeFeng.com to VIP.com and had finished the first ‘crossover’ in my life. After I had received investment, I felt that my work was much easier. With the consideration that I wouldn’t have the energy to participate in every part of running a business as I had in the past, I realised that investment would become the touch point for me for new things in the new era. That was how Xing Venture born.

Luxe.CO: How do you see the investment in the consumer sector as a Chinese woman?

Jing Li: My insights come from my rich past experiences and as a woman who loves shopping.

I believe that to do business well, you have to understand what the consumer really wants. For me, I have a unique understanding of the feelings Chinese women try to hide, which is why I don’t have much faith in surveys. The answers women tend to give when being interviewed are closer to what they believe in their ideal self, rather than what is true of their real self.

Luxe.CO: In the business environment of upgrading consumption, we believe that there will be more and more excellent upcoming brands in China. What do you think about this?

Jing Li: It has been 13 years since Pretty Woman first aired, and we’ve witnessed the development of two generations of brands. More than a decade ago, there was a high failure rate for new brands, even those started by celebrities, and the reasons for these failures were many and varied. In contrast, the next generation of designer and celebrity brands has a great future potential for several reasons. First of all, these brands will be highly international because they will be started by designers who have studied overseas and have an international perspective on fashion.

The mentality of brand founders also matters. In the past designers mostly had an ‘artist’s’ mindset, which was to sell you their ‘creation’, while telling you that it wasn’t ‘business’, but ‘art’. However, the new generation of designers doesn’t believe that doing business is something to be embarrassed about. When you treat your work as a part of a business, there is a greater chance of success. One thing I look for in people is honesty and the courage to embrace one’s ideas.

Luxe.CO: More and more brands are being started by celebrities; however, few of them have succeeded. What’s your view on this?

Jing Li: There are big opportunities for brands started by Chinese celebrities as, because of the large population, if your products are valuable and honest, there is huge potential to grow.

However, to be honest, I don’t have an optimistic view of brands started by Chinese celebrities. Judging from my own experience of creating an e-commerce business, I feel that it’s easier to make money in China just by maintaining your fame. Because of this, neither the celebrities nor their teams put that much effort into developing the brand, unless the celebrity in question truly loves the sector. Therefore I think that there won’t be that many celebrity brands in the future.

Luxe.CO: Celebrities are magnets for customer flow. It’s common for established brands to have celebrities promote them. What’s your opinion on emerging brands doing the same?

Jing Li: Firstly, the product must be good. Secondly, celebrities are better at promoting low-cost products.

Take Coffee Box, for example, the celebrities who invested in the brand at an early stage (Ying Na, Wenli Jiang and Jun Dai) really helped with the development of the brand. To promote the brand, Ying Na had the idea of sending the coffee to the studio for the recording of The Voice of China, on which she was a judge, so that people could see another judge, Jay Chou (周杰伦), drinking a cup of this coffee. We also came up with the idea of sending free coffee to filming locations. Gradually, many celebrities who weren’t our investors started to like our coffee, which gained us a huge amount of exposure.

Luxe.CO: Does Xing Venture have any plans to use your celebrity resource to help your upcoming brands?

Jing Li: Popular culture is about how something a small and niche group does trigger a craze among the public to follow their example. For example, pointed shoes were worn by a small group of hippies initially, and this led to the rest of the population becoming crazy about them. That’s why celebrities are the best ‘craze creators’.

We mainly invest in the consumer sector, which is largely about food and entertainment. That’s true for everyone, including celebrities. This is why I use my personal relationships with celebrities to advertise our products, allowing everyone to take what they will use. However, I never push too hard and never do anything that would make my celebrity friends uncomfortable. My main focus is on finding new, excellent-quality brands that suit the era of the consumption upgrade.

Luxe.CO: What’s Xing Venture’s investment concept?

Jing Li: Xing Venture mainly invests in the series pre-A round as a co-investor. Because we are in the early stages of investing and funding is limited, it’s risky for us to get involved in the angel round. After we had invested in a few companies in consumer fashion, we gained the trust of several investors who have been happy to help us.

In my opinion, Xing Venture has three important components: celebrities who have a lot of resources, entrepreneurs who share their experience with us and inspire us with their dreams, and investors who trust us.

Xing Venture is interested in innovative consumer products, especially companies that focus on female customers. We hope to improve people’s lives and make them happier through our investments.

Luxe.CO: Xing Venture has just invested in LOOK, a company which provides bloggers with an e-commerce platform that encompasses mini programmes. Is this investment related to your experiences of producing the fashion reality show Pretty Woman and creating LeFeng.com?

Jing Li: I know just how difficult it is to start an e-commerce website. When running LeFeng.com, we had very little knowledge of e-commerce, which was really challenging for me.

Not every influencer is strong enough to run their own e-commerce website. LOOK helps these influencers to get involved in e-commerce without needing to understand it deeply. It integrates the global e-commerce sites and creates a strong fashion statement, rather than just showing popular items for that season.

I believe that LOOK will play a part in China’s fashion market in future, as the influencers on WeChat channels are now all micro media organisations with precisely targeted audience groups.

Luxe.CO: Xing Venture was founded two years ago. What’s day-to-day life like for you? What are you learning?

Jing Li: I spend two hours every day looking through potential investments. I want to learn about the investment, but not from a technical point of view, such as value. I mainly want to know more about how to judge a project or an industry from an investor’s point of view.

For example, through learning about investment, we’ve developed Fleet Entertainment into a TV production company that also works in e-commerce and innovative media.

When facing a new sector, I always like to learn. My attitude is to treat the learning process with both confidence and respect, and then I know I will gradually understand the new subject after a period of effort.

About Xing Venture:

Xing Venture is an investment company started by Jing Li, a well-known Chinese TV host and the founder of Fleet Entertainment and LeFeng.com. Xing Venture focuses on early and middle stage investments in the areas of innovative consumer products, innovative media, maternity and baby products, early-years education and content.

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