Once Upon a Time, a French & Chinese Guys decide to create their startup in China

It was in 2012, “the end of the world” and the birth of GMA.

I have started to see a great change in China. It was changing its hashtag from “the world’s factory”, a country that produces everything, to “the leader of the global consumer market”,  a population that buy everything (or almost everything).





We see a new way of communication which is “Internet”, and companies’ interest inside this upcoming digitalization.

We see (in 2012) a dirty market, the average “Online Marketing Agencies industry”… It was all these local marketing agencies that sell “fakes”: fake fans, fake traffic, fake campaign or services. The “Online Marketing Agencies” fake every result.

We see a Big Need: foreign brands who want to develop in China lack to find information about this new market, and a reliable Marketing Agency.

We see a Big Challenge : to partner with these Brands to create a successful business in China. Also, several businesses need long-term collaboration more than one shot services.

And today I will not share another growing trend in China, but our growing story…  The Startup story of a Foreigner in China and his Chinese friends

Why do I use “Startup”?  I think we were for quite long time a Startup.

  1. We work in the Digital field
  2. We have a Growth of 200% per year since 2012
  3. 100% since 2years


A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” Paul Graham (interesting article from him)



 Previously, before the launch

Most of you know that our today’s website started as a blog. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was a French Blogger who talk about China’s Marketing Trends.

2010 – 2012 : the feeling for the upcoming need to market in China and to make efficient campaign.

I used to do freelance missions for people that contact me via my website. Around 20 persons per month were contacting me to ask for social media management, referencing development or to help them identify their leads.

At that time I was in China for 6 years, and I know that here, Nothing is easy but everything is possible.


2012 : LAUNCH OF GMA (Gentlemen Marketing Agency)

Why Gentlemen?

We came up with this idea… “The Gentlemen of China”, positioning our Agency on 3 values :

  1. Honesty: because everybody wants to work with Honest People
  2. Professional: we wanted to be the “expert at Digital in China”, Expert in our activity, and expert in the different industries.
  3. Efficiency: a performance Agency, able to bring real Results

We want to act like real Gentlemen do in business.

For the emotional side, a kind of “Madmen dream” in China you know… everyone would like to work with Don Draper.

Like anyone who works in Advertising / Marketing, we are a fan of Mad Men. Positive and inspirational, the universe of this series is attractive anyway.


Problems in the Chinese Digital Market

Because the Marketing / Digital market in China suffered from major problems

  • A lack of honesty and transparency from agencies to their Clients
  • A lack of visible results and professionalism
  • A request for partnership work on the long term rather than short-term assignments
  • A consulting part, that an Agency must take care with its client. China is a “complex” market.

Soon, we signed contracts that allowed us to become very profitable and to reinvest in our activity and growth.

2013 : A year of establishment

How to launch a startup, in China, in 2013 … No information.

Every startup started in a garage.

PS : I remind that we started in an apartment, with low costs but a desire to give our best on each project.





A very good year for the beginning of our Agency

Without investment, we start with this means:

  • his grey matter
  • his energy
  • and some small innovations

And the most important, we provide information on the Chinese market by positioning ourselves as a market expert agency, with good knowledge about SEO, Weibo and Reputation related to Baidu.


We quickly start to sign contracts,

… which allow us to build an 8 people team (4 Chinese employees and then 4 trainees).

Business model confirmation

Some basic things need to be ensured in a startup in China; the ability of a company to be attractive and to earn money. We start from scratch, with no resources, and making money is vital for a small agency.


2014 : 1st case studies and services development

A challenging year

At the early stage of a company, there are so many works to do and for any entrepreneur, this time of excitement fevered him. Then when you know and feel the joys of growth, when your customers trust you, we go for it and give our best.


Joys, disappointments, and then results at the end of the year are encouraging.


We realize that a company needs cash flow, that banks in China do not lend, and (one more time) that everything is possible in China, but nothing easy.

Some clients:

2015 : Increase quality – Upper Positionning

Every agency must succeed in going upmarket and be able to provide more and more advanced services to satisfy its customers.

We move upmarket, the team doubles. It’s a year of intense training with the GMA-style atmosphere.

Relocation of our premises in a real office in JingAn (Shanghai) and a willingness to offer upgraded services.

The agency continues to grow, attracting more leads and then a higher delivery rate.

New websites, new videos, real search for unique benefits, improved proposals …


2016 : Growth is difficult to manage

The growing troubles  … When we grow up, processes are not stable, but there is no sweet without sweat.


Where should we start to structure a company … a startup in China.


We are the top and most visible Web & Marketing Agency for China you will find on the web. Our Services: E-Commerce, Search Engine Optimization, Advertising, Weibo, WeChat, WeChat Store & PR.


A very busy 2016 year

  • signing of key contracts
  • erratic figures
  • and the appearance of real structural and administrative matters.

During this year, the agency asserts itself as ROI agency (return on investment)

  • with many Lead Generation contracts
  • some 1st E-Commerce contracts.

The minimum goal of triple the turnover is achieved with difficulty at the end of the year, but realized anyzay.


  • We change premises as every year to be in a startup hub
  • Videos improve conversion.
  • The Chinese team is professionalizing itself.


Philip my partner: the Digital Gentleman


2017: The year of optimization

There is nothing we can do, we are SEOs, and we optimize, over-optimize to reach the maximum efficiency.

This picture sums up so well the situation.

2017 is a year of confirmation for :

  • Our positions
  • The strengthening of our capabilities
  • Our services
  • Our processes
  • the explosion of some people in our agency

We optimize everything.

  • Customer conversion become easier,
  • and we multiply the contracts.
  • We move into high class offices. (photo soon promised)
  • The training is now faster
  • Fluid processes

We make more value with less people.

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  1. Hello Olivier,
    How are you? I’ve been reading about you and your company where you talk about your experience in doing marketing in China. I like it very much, mainly the part where you explain some tips for a foreigner who is planning on doing business there, very helpful!
    Thank you

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