Xiaomi, which is planning to expand abroad, paid Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to appear in front of reporters at its headquarters in Beijing

Jan 12, 2014

Startup Hopes to Capture Apple’s Magic

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at a Xiaomi event in Beijing on Sunday.

Xiaomi Inc., the startup that has rattled China’s smartphone market with its fast-selling handsets, is hoping to capture some of the magic that made Apple Inc.AAPL -0.67% a global success story. The Chinese company, which is planning to expand abroad, paid Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to appear on Sunday in front of reporters at its headquarters in Beijing. Mr. Wozniak showed up at the event–labeled as the “Lei Jun & Woz Tech Talk”–with Xiaomi’s founder and chairman, Lei Jun, and told reporters that Xiaomi’s products were “excellent” and “good enough to crack the American market.”Mr. Wozniak said he was given Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 3 smartphone to test. He also received a demonstration of Xiaomi’s new Mi Wi-Fi router, which comes in a do-it-yourself kit that requires consumers to assemble the device themselves. Mr. Wozniak was later given the kit as a gift, which comes in an elegant wooden box, with his birthdate engraved on it.

“I’m playing with mine. I like it so far, and I’ll tell you if I have problems,” he told reporters. Mr. Wozniak didn’t disclose how much he was paid for the appearance, but said he only nets 20% of his original fee. In fact, he said that 15% of his fee goes to a co-broker, 12.5% goes to his agent, 37% is paid in U.S. government taxes and 13% goes to California state taxes. “I do not do this for money,” he said. “If I find things I don’t like about the Mi 3, I’ll tell them.”

Xiaomi’s corporate culture and rapid ascent has invited some comparisons to Apple. Like the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Xiaomi’s chairman sports dark shirts and presides over high-profile product releases. As part of efforts to expand overseas,

“A lot of our brain power comes from China,” he said. “We’ve needed these elements that have come from Asia for so long.”

Mr. Wozniak said he noticed that Singapore is changing.  “They actually have quite a bit of great hardware development, and so they have very talented people. They have people that are thinking very much like Xiaomi thinks,” he said.

Finally Mr. Wozniak said he “would love to live” in Beijing. “It’s a very comfortable place for Americans … I want to shop in the little stores that are building components and parts, and plugging in phones and reprogramming them. I love that world — it’s certainly where I started.”

Apple’s Steve Wozniak: Xiaomi is good enough to break the American market

January 13, 2014

by Paul Bischoff

At the Xiaomi headquarters in Beijing yesterday, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak and Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun sat side-by-side for a panel interview for invited guests.

Woz first appeared at Xiaomi on Friday to promote China’s successful four-year-old homegrown smartphone brand. He then gave a speech at GeekPark 2014, and had also been doing some promotion for Tesla Motors (he rode to Xiaomi headquarters in a Model S), which is set to enter China next month.

Woz said he gets paid to speak at events around the world, but that Xiaomi did not pay for his endorsement.

It’s unclear how Woz got acquainted with Xiaomi, and the pairing comes off as a bit malapropos because Lei Jun has been vocally defiant of the media’s comparison between himself and Steve Jobs. Woz did most of the talking during the panel, and the only time Lei ever became visibly animated was when a reporter broached the subject that Lei’s relationship with Woz isn’t helping to kick the public perception of Lei as “China’s Jobs.”

“I’ve said on many different occasions that if I had been called the “Steve Jobs of China” at 20 years old, I would have been very honored,” Lei said. “However, as a 40-year-old, I do not want to be considered second to anyone.” [our translation]

Woz and Lei both took the chance to pose with and discuss some of Xiaomi’s products. Woz is apparently using a Xiaomi Mi3 smartphone now, although it’s unclear how useful it might be outside of China.

“I’m playing with mine. I like it so far. I’ll tell you if I have problems,” Woz said. “Xiaomi has excellent products. They’re good enough to break the American market.”

At one point, Lei and Woz assembled one of Xiaomi’s new smart wi-fi routers to show it off for the audience. Lei Jun humbly criticized his own product, saying the router’s CPU is too slow.

The pair never spoke directly to one another, likely as a result of the language barrier between the two of them. Lei Jun never speaks in English publicly, and Woz doesn’t know Chinese. Still, it seemed as if they had never even met before as they each took turns answering the interviewer’s questions.

Other than his little rant, Lei mostly kept quiet. The long-winded Woz, on the other hand, took every opportunity to wax poetic and reminisce about the days when he was making the Apple II. When he was asked about the similarities between Apple and Xiaomi, it was hard to tell if he was dodging the question or simply didn’t know.

“Xiaomi is in a very different age. It’s hard to compare apples to apples,” Woz joked.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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