Interview of Chinese Entrepreneur Leo Sun from LoginChinese

Hello everybody, we receive today Leo Sun, a Chinese entrepreneur in France.

1/ Hello Leo, can you introduce yourself? 

I am a common Chinese who was born in Shanghai, graduated in Beijing with an engineering background, and has a bit curious to see what the world is really like. I was quite fortunate to get the chance to work for Huawei, a Chinese high-tech company when it was still very young in the international market. I was sent by Huawei to France in 2003 to develop the business opportunity from scratch and was appointed as CEO of Huawei France in 2007. In 2011 I was appointed as head of the EU office in Brussels to implement the corporate strategy in Europe. when I left France, Huawei France grew to a company with a multi-hundred million euro annual turnover and 650 employees. I decided to leave Huawei and come back to France in 2014 after I accomplished my mission in Brussels and decided to do something different.

2/ Can you describe your concept? 

In my more-than-decade experience in Europe, I started to have a vision: while Asian young people are discovering the western world eagerly, western young people will have an increasing need to discover the eastern world. Besides the obvious opportunities offered by the growth of the Chinese economy, there are many other things to be discovered. I saw for myself, when I came to France and Europe, how this changed my life, not only for business and career-wise but also my mindset, value and lifestyle, the taste of culture arts and beauty, philosophy and so on. I know it will do the same for European youngsters when they start to discover the eastern world.

To do so, the best investment is language. Today, almost all Chinese students and young adults rely heavily in English, French, Spanish all the other languages because they know this investment will bring them different life in the future as return(as it did to me). I strongly believe and hope in the near future, a majority of European youngsters will master at least one eastern language, in which case Chinese should be a logical choice. This is the mission of our project: to bring the best learning experience to Chinese learners around the world through its quality teaching and social community.


3/ What is different ? 

I observed the Chinese schooling market today, it is not maturely organized and the way of learning is neither very modern nor professional. Unlike the English or French language market, Chinese language schools usually lack of standard methodology, everything depends on the individual teacher, who quite often do it as part-time activities. For a learner, it’s very hard to build a clear learning plan: what to learn, how to learn, how long it takes, and very difficult to have a certain guarantee to achieve the objective. This situation leads to several consequences, among which, the most important one is giving a wrong image of Chinese as an extremely difficult language to learn. This is an absolutely misleading perception.

Our service is aiming to change this perception: We want to demonstrate to potential learners that Chinese is a language as easy as English or French to learn, as long as there is a modern and proper method in place. We provide a standard designed method to offer a clear learning plan, including scope, duration and rhythm. We also provide well-trained and competent teachers, familiar with the teaching guideline, so the learners can have different teachers throughout the whole learning cycle with the same experience. We also provide a certain guarantee that, as long as according to the learning plan, the learner will achieve the pre-designed objectives, which can be measured by different standards.

On top of this, we provide the most advanced technology and education in our services, which are even new to the English or French markets. We based all our learning content on digital and interactive content. An online virtual classroom for distant learning offer will be launched in September and an e-learning product will be available on Q4 this year. Maybe because I came from the ICT sector, we think the combination of modern education services with advanced technology is the only right way to evolve. In this area, we will continue to invest heavily to improve our user experience and performance.


4/ How did you get this idea? 

I am always looking the way to help the European people to bridge the gap with China which I am convinced will bring back a lot of value. Also since I left my previous job, I finally got time to seriously learn French which I always wanted. So as a learner myself, I found many things wonderful when I learn French that don’t exist for French people to learn Chinese. I think this should be changed.

5/ What are the 3 biggest challenges for Chinese entrepreneurs in France

It’s very hard to say because there are not many Chinese entrepreneurs in France, especially in new services or products which will create new values.

But generally speaking: the French market is hard with new products, this market is very demanding and selective, so if you are not ready to do it seriously and be the best, the French market will be out of reach.

Secondly, the French market is not similar to the Chinese market in terms of scale, and costs are much higher. Costs not only mean different expenses, but also the loss brought by the many delays. Things can be done in China within one week, it can take months in France.

And lastly, there is indeed the cultural difference in, team management and dealing with customers.

6/  French and the Chinese ways of doing business are really different? 

Chinese companies are very innovative in terms of strategy and ideas. Once they have ideas (sometimes too many ideas), they usually focus on the result and not quite enough on whether every step on the way makes sense or not.  The French team will carefully examine ideas from every aspect of the process, every step shall be convincing and well-organized. The Chinese people often fail at implementing good ideas, while the French give up on too many good ideas.

7/ Why we should speak mandarin in 2015?  

It’s quite obvious for business reasons: because China’s market economy is still evolving, the level of European investment to China or Chinese investment to Europe is still very low compared to the flows with NA or even other countries or continents. Speaking Chinese means more job opportunities, a new potential market (BTW often also is the biggest market in the world), new investors, new suppliers… so many possibilities.

But on top of this, there are less obvious advantages: China is also evolving in terms of society behaviors, political system, people’s opinions, ideas, culture and arts. Speaking Chinese can help people to access suddenly much more of information (by talking to people, following Chinese social media, reading books or websites, enjoy Chinese movies and music which nowadays with all display excellent quality…) All this knowledge can be a great asset for Europeans to embrace the globalized world. It may doesn’t show today, but little by little, step by step, by 2020, the difference between Chinese speakers and non-speakers will be unquestionable.

8/ What will be your marketing strategy 

We mainly target young people from 14 to 45. We try to understand their demands and the way they communicate. we also will customize our product and marketing for different segments of the population, like high school students, university or business school students, young professionals, ex-pats, senior managers or other business clients. Each segment will have different needs and means of communication. Of course today digital marketing helps us a lot to approach these people more precisely. But I believe the real effective marketing for our service is oral reputation spread out among our customers. They know better where to find other customers and they will advertise for us. Our task is to make our “ambassadors” happy.

9/ What Tips can you give to future entrepreneurs in France? 

If you want to create your business in France, love this country first, open your mind to understand how French people live and think, love their qualities and defects, and don’t complain or complain like the French do.

And, do it with a long-term plan, with persistence.

10/ Is France a good country for startups? 

Not really be honest, you must have courage and a strong motivation because the market is tough and so is the background. I did it because I love this place, and so be it.

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