This is the final day of our business focus in China but certainly not the last of our adventure.
Day five picks up from where day four ended. Literally. The “networking” on day four ran a little into day five, which meant that we made a strategic business decision to see it through the night and only go back to the hotel to collect our bags.
We left a good bunch of people in Qingdao and made as many friends as we did business contacts.
The wee hours saw us say goodbye to our UKTI and British Innovator friends (the ones still up) and head on.
We wandered down the empty streets of Qingdao at dawn back to our hotel, collected our things and got our taxi to the next adventure. Qingdao is a Tier 2 city (8.9m people), meaning it’s still massive. It felt quite small, but the taxi took us through a never-ending city. Qingdao is ambitious and is really trying to show its stuff to the world.
Also, Qingdao has the coolest taxi driver ever. As we were fairly jolly from a mix of sleep deprivation and “networking” we were happy to join the taxi driver in singing along to “Country Roads” by John Denver. Probably the funniest taxi ride of all time for us.
We must have been a sight as we walked into the airport in sunglasses, Jeremy in a straw fedora with him also cruising on the luggage trolly. Lots of stares. We thought we were pretty cool.
Then the coolness stopped (it was never really there).
We’d pulled our flight forward after we were asked to take part in a talk at CIFTIS - the China International Fair for Trade in Services by the China British Business Council (CBBC) on Creativity. We tried to book the flight but as we discovered when we arrived at the airport there was no ticket. So, after ten minutes of being sent between airlines we see our saviour – Shu from the CBBC who had arranged with us to talk at CIFTIS. Shu and Fenella from the CBBC had arrived in the nick of time. She came to our aid and we managed to get the same flight as them.
Shu, for some reason, found her new American and Irish companion rather amusing - probably because we were delirious and making no sense. We have a girl who works for us, Wendy. She’s a Chinese Malaysian who runs Navada. She knows what we need to do before we do. So Shu reminds us of Wendy. Except Wendy has been around us long enough to not laugh at us anymore. Shu thought we were hilarious. Or we were delirious enough to think she was laughing at us and not our chaotic form. We boarded our flight and before we could fall asleep we ended up in Beijing.
Taking on the role of carer (and to ensure we arrived at the event) Shu put us in a taxi and explained where we needed to be, and at what time. In between times we showered and blogged.
We jumped into a taxi and tried to figure out where to head and arrived just outside the Bird’s Nest (Google it) – a huge massive convention centre. Two scary guys in blue camouflage wouldn’t let us through the gates. Cue…Shu!!! Again, coming to our rescue.
We went in and met the rest of the CBBC delegation, including someone named Carla, who along with Shu, thought we were equally as funny. We also met Cheryl Low from the CBBC and reconnected with Fenella.
The CBBC is an amazing organisation throughout the UK and China that helps British businesses connect and establish a presence in China. They have over a 50-year pedigree in helping businesses in China and should be a first port of call. Aside from knowing their stuff, they are really lovely people.
Now off to the presentation. We thought there would be a few people. Saw the speaker list, and thought it would be in a small room. But this is China, nothing but prices on a legitimate taxi fare is small. We saw a screen that was around 50ft wide and 15ft tall . . . and 120 people.
So, sleep deprivation and a rather jolly night was going to have to be put aside to deliver.
Given our slide issue at the previous TIF-In event, we were just happy that the slides showed up. The Navada boys did their tag-team and delivered a quality presentation, the delirium probably helping to quell any nerves.
We gave a run down of Navada, but the focus was on British creativity and the creative culture. Our thoughts on this are that creativity takes many forms - it’s not just what you see, but it’s the entire experience, from strategy, design, visual, technical - the whole gambit - and it has to connect emotionally. That’s real value.
The remainder of the speakers were a real innovative and creative bunch. A mix of Chinese and British talks, all with something to offer.
One was a British guy with a Chinese creative agency named Sandy (the guy not the agency).
After the seminar, we all had some food and drinks at a reception and started taking to Sandy. He was elated to see in our presentation a showreel featuring many sites in Newcastle. You see, Sandy is from South Shields. So we went to China, met a guy named Sandy and we have a arranged to go for a drink when he is over in July. Small world. We also had a really good chat with the head of Propeller TV (which incidentally interviewed us at the event). He really thought that Vadoo, if done to our vision, could empower broadcasters. So we have some work to do.
We also met a few other interesting people, including another guy from Baidu who was really interested in the work Navada do around content.
Additionally, just to add a little bit more talking, we were interviewed for Propeller TV and a newspaper.
After the reception Cheryl suggested we go to a rooftop bar to wind down. Given our lack of sleep, we weren’t entirely sure this was going to be the wisest decision, but we thought it would be rude not to go.
Migas is a rooftop bar in a trendy district in Beijing. Aside from the view, the atmosphere was very bohemian which suited us two weary travellers. There were grass planters that acted as seating and in the grass they had mobile phone chargers. Most people, especially women, carry around portable battery packs to power their smartphones. Such a good idea given the half-day capacity on most generic iFruit smartphones.
We went with Shu, Frenella, Cheryl and a gentleman named Jonathan. A bit later, another fellow speaker from the event William, who runs thedragontrip.com, joined us with his girlfriend. If you want to go to China - then definitely check this out.
It’s a start up that takes the best of both worlds of coach tours but with a bit of a focus on going to places that many would never see, and great for people on a budget.
We all really had a good laugh at the bar - Matt Skyped his daughter from Migas and everyone got a chance to wave hello. While we were there we made plans to go the Great Wall. Our amazing Shu made the arrangements and William sorted a driver for the day.
Another Brit in China, Duncan joined us on our way to the Noodle bar recommended by Cheryl. We made our selection and watched as these noodle magicians made the noodles fresh in front of us. We also watched while Matt tried to eat the noodles with chopsticks. Wagamama’s is good, but this, well, was just so much better.
As we decided to leave we noticed the torrential downpour that decided to rain down. So we all ended a little damp. The group split and we ended up in a bar with Cheryl. Cheryl is Malaysian like our Wendy but studied at Coleraine in Northern Ireland. So we’ve (Matt) got a connection on several levels. We had a drink at a very swanky bar before sleep deprivation made Jeremy a little demonic mid-conversation and we decided to call it a night.
Tomorrow’s adventure includes the great wall of China with Shu and Anita from UKTI.
From a business perspective, we made some valuable contacts from the UK and China. It has confirmed that China is a key Navada market. The mass adoption of advanced technology suits our Vadoo concept. We’re also focused on our we can distribute our content ideas and work with Chinese partners to develop great content relationships.
On a personal note, we really met some wonderful people. Almost too many to process and lifelong friends.
All of this confirms that this is only our first adventure to China and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.