Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 06 – The Product Pioneer (Gina LI, Beach IoT)

Oscar Fuchs
"Failure is three meals a day". You may have heard other tech entrepreneurs talk about failure. But it has never sounded as genuine as when uttered by Gina Li.
Oscar Fuchs

"Failure is three meals a day". You may have heard other tech entrepreneurs talk about how they embrace failure. But it has never sounded as genuine as when uttered by the innovation business leader, Gina Li.

Original Date of Release: 17 Sep 2019.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 06 – The Product Pioneer (Gina LI, Beach IoT)


GL: Failure is like three meals per day. And especially for what we do, it's more innovative and challenging. So a lot of times, when we come up with a concept or an idea, we don't know how to build it.


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I'm your host, Oscar Fuchs.

I really love that quote from my guest today, "failure is three meals a day". I've seen a bunch of tech entrepreneur startup types talk about how they embrace the idea of failure, but it never really found a genuine to me until I heard this phrase coming out of the lips of my guest today, Gina Lee. Now what can I say about Gina? Let's put it this way, there aren't many people who I would allow to talk about their background for five minutes straight on this podcast. But it was impossible to interrupt Gina as she tells her story from growing up on the Silk Road, to getting into hip hop dancing, to finally stumbling into the world of product design. If Gina defines her life as failure served up like three meals a day, then please… I'll have what she's having.

In our discussion, we talked about the essence of product design, and how it's allowing China to rediscover its roots as a world leader in innovation. We also discuss two examples of the products that Gina's company - Beach IoT - has reimagined. One of them is the digital telescope, and the other one is, of course, the cotton candy machine. There, you knew I was going to say that, didn't you? In fact, even if I did say it, I know how strange it will sound for some people to hear the words cotton candy spoken with a British accent. To everyone who doesn't know, in the UK we call it 'candy floss'. So let me start today's podcast with an apology to all British listeners. I'm sorry, I was too polite, and I did not stand up for the dignity of British candy floss. I promise I've been punishing myself ever since this recording.

[Part 1]

OF: I'm here with Gina Lee.

GL: Hi, Oscar.

OF: Hi, Gina. And Gina, you are the CEO of Beach IoT, right?

GL: Yes.

OF: So very quickly, what is Beach IoT?

GL: Beach IoT is a company that does smart solutions for hardware and software combined, to build smart business, which we can go through later.

OF: OK. And the first question would be, what object did you bring?

GL: Alright, so these objects I brought, usually they are like twins, they always go together. So this is a journal notebook, and this is a book. Actually, so wherever I go - it doesn't matter if it's pocket size or a big size - I always have either a book with me, or a notebook. Usually they're together, because reading and writing are companions with me. So because I don't usually do things with friends, I enjoy time more by myself. Most of the time, outside work, I'm alone. So I read and write, I record the things I'm thinking in my mind. I'm like, making conversation with myself throughout this. And I think writing down what I'm thinking every day as a diary - I won't call it a diary, because it's not daily - but I do like constantly recording what I'm thinking. Almost 20 years, I would say.

OF: Wow.

GL: Yeah, I kept that habit very well.

OF: So how many of those books do you have now, piled up?

GL: I have a couple at my hometown. And in Shanghai now I have like… more than ten, I think. I didn't really count them. Some of them are already, like, buried in suitcases somewhere else. Those from 15 years ago, you know, when you're just 20. I just don't have the courage to read them yet.

OF: Yeah. And you said your hometown. So where is 'hometown' for you?

GL: I was born in the northwest of China, which you would call the Silk Road. And it's 甘肃 [Gānsù] Province. So actually it's a city right in the middle of the Silk Road.

OF: And so what was the story that brought you from 甘肃 [Gānsù] all the way to Shanghai?

GL: Yes, I was kind of… I would say one of the best students in my hometown. I'm always the one, people really hate, I always know everything, I'm always the smartest. And then yes, through that, I got the chance to go to almost any school I want. And I chose the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. So the reason is actually quite straightforward, because there was a report on the average income of the bachelor degree graduates in China. And my school has always been the top one, because of course people were working for the financial industry, they get paid a lot. So I kind of gave up on the chance to go and be a scientific and really smart person, but choose the school that meant I could get paid well.

So I got to the school, I thought I will be the fabulous lady, the white collars going to the tall buildings, high heels. Then I realised it's not really like that. And I started to think about something else to do at school, so I started to gather with the community of dancing and hip hop. Like surprisingly, I started to get into the underground culture. And after I graduated, I had a long negotiation with my parents, and I became a professional dancer for a couple of years. Which was very lucky, because back then it wasn't that popular. So I got to the top level. So I was actually working in the entertainment industry for a short time, until I felt like maybe that's the time to change. Then I decided to pick up the major I started at school, so I went to do some financial jobs as a consultant, FOREX trading, and go into that type of thing. And surprisingly - not surprisingly - not even two years later, it was proved to me: "No, it doesn't work for me". And then I started looking for job, I wanted to do marketing and branding, I worked for some government company. And then I worked for an agency, until I decided to establish my own agency, like a marketing event production company, like eight years ago. And then after a couple of cases of seeing something fail, I wanted to do something. I thought at the back of my head, what I always wanted to do is build something by myself.

And then I met my partner in Thailand. So we actually met each other just because we were staying in the same resort, the same bungalow. And then I was having breakfast.

While this guy's just getting into, like, vegetarianism, healthy eating, like - how to say - detoxing. And I was just "I'm overseas. This is cheap. That's amazing". So I had like four or five dishes. So we're sitting like how we're sitting now, on the table. I'm just eating, like, vacuuming the food into my mouth. And while he just like, scoop by scoop, watching me finish. He was like "Wow, impressive". I was like "Thank you". And then he was like "You speak English". I said "Yeah". And he actually has an Asian face, because his grandparents are like Chinese too. So we're like, we don't know each other, we were not sure whether we spoke English, but we started getting into a conversation. And then because his background is as a product designer, and someone who has worked in Germany for 10 years. So he had insight into product building. Also how he sees the Chinese product industry, it gives me a lot of inspiration, and also it kind of hurt, with some of the really critical points he highlighted. Like, for example, he was saying, back in the old days, China was the best at building stuff in the world. Everyone was talking about all the silk, all the China, ceramics… Everything we did was the best in the world for building. And then, like, for example there are some things each country's still proud of, that they still kept. Like Italians, they still kept the old ways of doing a lot of food, wine, vinegar even. And the French too. But it's such a pity that we didn't keep anything anymore, and have pride in ourselves. Even though there's still some really great people still doing that, that's not how we have been showing ourselves to the world. And we're not famous for building fantastic stuff anymore. He just asked me a question "What has happened? And I was just like, stumbled there. Like I asked myself "Yeah, exactly. What has happened?" We might as well just pick up from this point and do something. Then people will not just focus on what has happened - "You're not good anymore" - but actually everyone can look at it and say "It doesn't matter, you will be good again". So that's the point where I start to share my, kind of like, potential feeling on what I wanted to do. I told him as an agency doing marketing and branding, the biggest failure is when you had all this vision - the idea, how to position the product, and the business - and then when you saw the actual product you're like "That's not quite how it could be." Like, you feel bad about promoting that. So that's where, in the back in my head, I wanted to build something. So first of all, of course, you're promoting something, you know it's good quality, you want to qualify everything around that. But I wasn't a designer, I had nothing like… I don't know anything about product building. And it just happened that I met him. Then we started this company.

OF: Right. And so obviously, you saw that in him, with his product design experience.

GL: Yes.

OF: This grand idea. What do you think he saw in you, at that breakfast?

GL: Actually, when he was saying "Let's start to do something together," he was being really arrogant. He just thought, if I can speak good English, I could help him do business in an easier way. So, pretty much, he just thought I could be a translator, and let's say an Operation Manager. Until like, throughout the rest of the time in Thailand, sometimes he saw me, like at 9 or 10pm, we're sitting there chatting, I could just pull out my phone and started adding to Excel on it, if I have to. He said, that is something makes him feels like "Oh, this is something about this girl, she gets things done. Like, without hesitation". So that's how simple it was, he wasn't even putting any expectation that I have an understanding of how this business should go. So it took time - about how I'm learning, how I always give him ideas - and I think because that openness has opened up the opportunity, actually our business has turned from him being the dominant lead of the whole thing, and slowly pivot and transfer, to right now, I'm actually leading it.

OF: OK, so let's go back to the beach. So of course, now I'm thinking about the beach. That's why you called the company that.

GL: Yes. Actually literally because it was founded on the beach, that's why we called it Beach.

OF: So in a nutshell then, tell me about what it is that you do.

GL: When we first started the company, it was six years ago. That's when product design was just rising in the Chinese industry. So people started to pay a little bit more attention on how products should be designed.

OF: Before then, they were just distributing the stuff that was coming in from outside of China?

GL: Yes. So there were mainly doing the manufacturing, and following the guidelines, and just like 'produce, produce', I wouldn't even call it 'build,' it was just producing and manufacturing. And then, I think that was the time when Apple was dominating the whole product design world, and they promoted design so well. So everyone believed that a good-looking design can make a product so different. That's how I was believing too. But actually, by getting into this industry, and by working with my partner Andrew and also people around him, I started to find out, design is actually not about looking, it's a science. It's like a mixed knowledge science. How this should be designed, mixed with how people interact with it, like ergonomics, and manufacturing, mechanical engineering, materials, there are a lot of things behind that. So it's not that we sketch or draw a design, then give it to the factory, then try to make it manufactured. You should think the other way. Why do you want to build this product? How do you want to use it? Where are you going to sell it? It's actually orientated by the business model, and that's where I think I started to slowly pick up: "Oh, the design versus business model is like a clutch". When you connect with it, you realise a product is just a tangible object, that's showing the business model: where the target audience is, the philosophy of how you want to use it, and everything behind it. So we started from the design, and slowly slowly, we started hiring engineers, and people from different parts of the product-related world, like software engineers, electronic, mechanic, like prototype engineers. So we started to build things on our own, because I think, when we did design, that's where I had the biggest respect for my colleagues. They don't only think about how it looks, and what material they want to apply. Always they first ask "Oh, so where are we going to sell it to? How is going to be used? What do you want to achieve out of this product?" So these are the questions usually we thought business people will ask. But actually no. Like, everyone has a business-oriented mind. My partner told me designers are designers, because it's business orientated. Otherwise, we're artists. Like, "Yeah, that makes sense".

OF: So then, thinking about that then, how do you decide what it is that you want to design, as a company?

GL: Like, for example, what we're doing right now is using robotic technology to build a cotton candy machine. So, like, there are completely opposite two sides. Because cotton candy, what we think about it is that it's a fun, puffy grandpa in the theme park. But actually, you know, it takes a lot of effort, energy, and consistency. And like, hygiene, cleaning, there's a lot of things behind that. So that is something where it makes so much sense if it can be done by a robotic arm. So we designed a simple robotic arm that can be applied on the machine that is a vending machine, doing cotton candy by customisation. We actually designed it in a way that, by technology, the canister is used from the top, not the bottom. So the image combined gives everyone a feeling like "Wow, that's so cool". But the 'cool' behind it is how technology could be applied to something fun. And what we did is, we put all the sugars, all the mechanical parts on top, and we designed the shape like a cloud. And we actually applied the name and called it "Cloud Candy". So instead of the sugar coming from the bottom shooting up, we're going from the top down. So in that case, the sugar - or the fluffy thing - doesn't fly all around. it makes it clean, easy to collect, and makes the robotic arm easier to move around to make different shapes.

OF: Right, different shapes. So you mentioned, like, personalised. How many shapes can it make?

GL: We currently right now have five shapes. There's the flower, there's a heart, there's a Christmas trees, there's the egg shape, acorn… It's actually just by applying the movement. The interesting thing is actually, when we first did that, we thought making cotton candy was easy, right? Just spin and move around. But there's no record about how you make cotton candy, it's all about feeling. It's like a muscle memory experience. So that has been the biggest challenge for us, like "Huhh, so how are we going to tell a robotic arm, by programming it, to make cotton candy?" Because we don't know all the angles, or the mathematics. Then it actually required our mechanical engineer, he is Canadian, and he graduated with, like a Master's degree research on carbon fibre. He was just joking "I was meant to be working for the satellite industry. Now I'm making cotton candy in China". So he has to learn for, like, weeks to become the master of cotton candy. Then he actually needed to work manually, by moving the robotic arm, and to record and understand how it works, and then report back. So it's just a simple thing like that. This is why I want to say, like, technology can never run on its own. It can do something, make it exciting. But the real connection is how we understand it, something we cannot even extract exactly. But how we can connect that with robotic technology and can build something to help us make a better experience.

OF: OK, well there you go, you have your first advert now, on this podcast.

GL: Thank you.

OF: I want to ask you about another example of a success. But maybe before I do, like, has there been any notable failures? Or any things that have been a surprise or a challenge that you weren't expecting?

GL: Failure is like three meals per day. And especially for what we do, it's more innovative and it's challenging the traditional ways of building a product. So a lot of times, when we come up with a concept or an idea, we don't know how to build it. And we got challenged by a client "If you don't know how to build it, how can you make it work?" I said "That is why we have the multi-skilled set of people sit together. To figure out how to build it". So one of the examples is actually one of the… I think it's my favourite product so far. It took the longest time and has involved the most failure, and has most difficulty. So actually a year and a half ago, we launched a digital telescope in CES Las Vegas, we actually brought it to Las Vegas. So we spent years, and we figured out how the experience should be, we built an app, we tried to get the algorithm. But actually, the biggest failure - or let's say the most frustrating thing about this thing - is actually the optics. You know, the funny thing about this, the optics of the telescope hasn't been changed for hundreds of years. That's how this was invented, it's just pure optics with a lens. And then, the larger the telescope, you need a more precise manufacturing process. And the failure percentage is way higher than we could have thought of. And because of the innovative way of controlling the focus point and optic image, we actually redesigned the whole optics. And just achieving that, and getting an image, getting everything sharp so that we can look at the object as how we expected, took more than a year. But yeah, glad after so many years. And now we're actually in the production line. And we're actually delivering the first product into Australia and North America by the end of this year. And then the goal is like, you can put one in the backyard, you don't need to suffer from the cold weather, you sit on the couch, and you can actually mirror all the images on the TV. And by just searching, the stars are alive. So that's it.

OF: Wow. You don't really think that you need it, until you hear about it. It's one of those products like… actually yeah, I can imagine with my nephew, pointing at the star, and then me saying "I've got no idea, Uncle Oscar is an idiot". But now I can fake it. And I guess your example is also just another great way that, you know, you see China as a whole moving up the value chain, you know.

GL: Yeah.

OF: I think people outside of China still think of it mainly as a manufacturing base, but with the capability of inventing things, and also harnessing that network when it comes to distribution within China, I think that's just a killer combination, what you've got there.

GL: Yeah. And also, I think with current… like the future technology, let's say… it's already on the fast speed train. We need to get on the train, we need to get used to the speed, we need to adapt to what is going to happen. And then, by doing that, everyone needs some insights. And the great thing about Chinese technology products, and how we're rising up the trend is, we can actually provide a lot of insights, and cases, and demos in a different way, because they are so self-responsible for technologies, they adapt so well. So I'm always hoping that, just by the technology itself, let's maybe - despite all the other facts - this is something pushing human society forward. That's just part of science, how it works. Yeah. So that's why I'm loving what I'm doing.

OF: Great. And if we get nice, acorn-shaped cotton candy out of it, then everyone's happy.

GL: Yeah, of course.

OF: Well, thank you so much, Gina.

GL Thank you for your time too.

OF: We're now going to move on to Part 2, which are the 10 questions.

GL: OK. Oh, the fast ones?

OF: Yes.

[Part 2]

OF: Are you ready?

GL: Yes let's do it.

OF: Question 1. What's your favourite China related-fact.

GL: The Chinese are always good at surviving.


GL: Yeah, because we have a long history of 5000 years of change and wars, everything. But I think Chinese do deeply inside know that it doesn't matter what horrible things are happening, whatever change is out there, the best way is to adapt, to keep yourself like alive. Survive first, and then you figure it out later.

OF: So do you have a favourite word - like a new word, or a phrase that you like to teach foreigners - in Chinese?

GL: I would say - I think, that's the only thing, I never found how to present it in English, like, if you can teach me that would be perfect - it's 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle].

OF: Oh 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle], OK.

GL: I never found, really, like, in which part you can present it. Because that's a phrase that is nothing about the result, nothing about anything you do, the purpose is just about the effort, and the time you put in. And it's including so much of, like, caring and love. It's like relieving. And sometimes people just say 辛苦了,加油 [xīnkǔle, jiāyóu] and that's like, a lot of power. And I never found what English word can replace that.

OF: I think I would probably translate it best as "Good work".

GL: "Good work"?

OF: "Good work today". Like, it's usually at the end of the day, or at the end of a project, right?


OF: It doesn't mean that necessarily it was a success, but you're just acknowledging the other's effort, it's probably, yeah "Good work".

GL: What about when you experience the whole day as being a failure the whole time?

OF: Yeah. "It's been a tough day, but thanks for your work".


OF: Because yeah, that's the 苦 [kǔ] part of 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle], right?

GL: Yeah, you can just apply it to anything. If someone's dedicated to doing something for a while, and it doesn't matter if they're happy, they're achieved something, they're frustrated, you can always say 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle] and it's full of power, right?

OF: Yeah. What is your favourite destination within China?

GL: My hometown, for sure. The Gobi Desert, with mountains. And also because it has been involved with so much history, from thousands of years ago. We actually have the Han Dynasty Great Wall there. So it's actually from 2000 years ago, but it wasn't built of stone, it was actually just built of mud. Because it's so rare to rain, it's still there. Like, it's just how little the rain every year drops on it, so it's still there, out in the wild, you can actually just go visit without any problem buying tickets. No, you just drive and you go out to the wild, and you see what is left there from 2000 years ago. Yeah.

OF: And no crowds of tourists, or…?

GL: I think lately it started to be a little bit crowded in certain seasons, people started to find out "Oh, that's actually great place". But not as I remember when I was young, there was just no-one around.

OF: Right. If you left China, what would you miss the most, and what would you miss the least?

GL: Let's take Shanghai as an example. We're actually free to do a lot of things here, because people are so tolerant, and they put up with different types of things. Even though they don't agree, maybe they don't do the same, but they won't just jump into your zone and tell you not to do that. I think that has become something special in big cities in China. It's a little bit cold, but also the same time it's more free. What I will miss the least is also related to this part, it's the crowded packs of people. Like, it does bother me sometimes. I do feel people are not aware enough that they have like a certain space, leave it to other people. So I think that's it.

OF: Is there anything that still surprises you about modern life in China?

GL: How old people can be adaptive to technology. That is surprising. Like, my grandma, she's 88, she she the iPhone XS Max. My God. She just wanted the largest screen, and she wanted to have WeChat. And she doesn't like to type, WeChat has audio messages, and the stickers. The most important thing: she can collect red packets. So we have a family group, that every day, we just send something like, you know, a 10 块 [kuài] or 5 块 [kuài] red packet, and she's happy. Like, that is just somehow the simplest connection with everyone. And then I found out, like, a lot of people like me, if their grandparents live back in their hometown, they do a similar thing.

OF: Where's your favourite place to go to eat or drink or hang out?

GL: In Shanghai?

OF: Yeah.

GL: IAPM, a shopping mall based in downtown Shanghai. I think from the third, fourth, fifth floor, there are certain different bars or a coffee shops that have terraces. And then also, they have, like, supermarkets and a movie theatre. So I just like to put myself somewhere in the crowd, but still a little bit quiet, where it has multi-functions.

OF: Very nice. What is the best or the worst purchase that you've recently made in China?

GL: Like, I think the best purchase is a headphone. It's like, the Apple AirPod headphone. And I keep telling people that it's such a simple thing, but actually it saves a lot of people's lives, it saved my life. That's it.

OF: It saved your life?

GL: Yeah, because you know how many hours I have to talk on the phone. And if I have to hold the phone on my ear, I get cramp. I get cramp all the time. So that's basically, actually the most expensive purchase item for the last few years I did.

OF: Right.

GL: Yeah, I'm that type of person.

OF: Yeah. What is your favourite WeChat sticker?

GL: Oh, OK. It's Super Mario shaking his head, as a super rock star. Like, every time I look at it, I just want to do the same.

OF: Awesome.

GL: Yeah.

OF: And in what context would you send this to someone?

GL: It's like a 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle].

OF: Ah, OK,

GL: Any context. If I want to cheer people up, and then bring back some energy, I just do that.

OF: Very good.

GL: Yeah.

OF: What is your go-to song to sing at KTV?

GL: I don't know if you know, there's an animation serial called 喜羊羊 [Xǐyángyáng], it's like happy sheep everywhere.

OF: Oh, I have seen it, yeah.

GL: Yeah, that's the song, every time I will sing that.

OF: Is it easy? That sounds easy.

GL: Yeah, it's very easy. It's like a kids song. It's like, they're singing about cabbage and, like, vegetables and carrots and everything. So I just love those lyrics. it's like "I'm singing about all the vegetables together, because I'm a sheep".

OF: And finally, what other China-related media or sources of information do you use?

GL: One is called '36氪 [36Kr]', it's like a technology app that they build content for, specifically for people working in the high tech industry. And another one is called '得到 [Dédào]', it's like a podcast, but not only a like a speaking-type podcast, it's more like a reading book. So all the people who have programmes on that have a very famous book, that tell people about a certain, like, philosophy of working, or different types of knowledge. And they just, like, record it by reading it. So for me, sometimes it's… When I bike to work, I listen to it. And then, like, certain parts - because they have actually a PDF referred to that - I can just mark out notes. So those are the two things that I generally use as information resources.

OF: Well, you've obviously got this natural curiosity, which just comes out. And the way that you absorb information, the way that you are, you know, voraciously reading and listening, to me this is the reason why you are where you are, I think.

GL: Thank you. Curiosity… Actually, the good thing is, like, a lot of people sometimes ask me, like "Do you consider yourself super smart or something?" For me, it's just pure curiosity. I just want to know.

OF: Well, I should also say thank you to the team at IPWS.

GL: Oh, yeah.

OF: A big thank you to Amanda, and everyone at IPWS. That's where you and I first met, at their Summit.

GL: Yeah, exactly.

OF: I just saw you accept a prize there, what was the prize that you won?

GL: So it was the Women Leadership Award of the year, as Innovator of the year.

OF: Right.

GL: So I was really excited to get the award, and I wasn't expecting it. I think last year I got nominated as well, but I didn't get to be a finalist. So this year, I got an email saying I got in again, and I was a finalist. I was like "Oh, wow". So that's, for me, it's already an achievement. I couldn't even wait for the Summit, I was like "I'm just gonna post it on my WeChat Moments". And that's it, because I didn't think I could ever get it. Until, like, I went through the jury process and talked to everyone, and then went to the summit. It was like "You know what, it's not about receiving the award, it's all of you guys". Like, all the fantastic women, all the people who were talking. And then it reminded me, like, at some point, instead of just being curious in books and things, I need to be more social. That is actually my personal goal right now, I need to pull myself out and actually talk more to people. Because I actually like to talk. But sometimes when you have limited time and attention, you just need to re-plan it. So I really appreciate that the IPWS has the annual Summit and the Award. I got to know you, I got to know a lot of fantastic women. And we actually get connected very well, we hang out. So it's like a life-turning event for me.

OF: Great.

GL: Yeah.

OF: Thank you again, the last thing I'll ask you is, if there was anyone else in China who you'd recommend that I interview next, who would it be?

GL: Yeah, I would definitely recommend my boxing coach. For me, he is the best boxing coach / best friend / best fitness coach, and a great man and also best friend. We have known each other for a very long time, snd throughout boxing, throughout things we do together, we share and learn a lot. And his name is Chris Xiong. He has won a lot of awards as best coach of the year actually.

OF: Wow.

GL: Yeah.

OF: And 'Xiong', is that the same as 'Bear', is it?

GL: Yes.

OF: Oh nice.

GL: Xiong is his family name, you can tell how strong he is by his name.

OF: Oh yes, he was destined to be a boxer.

GL: Yes. And his father is - actually, I will say back then - was one of the best boxers, and one of the best boxing promoters of China. He dedicated his life, and a passed on all the skills to Chris as well. So I think that is a huge destiny, like, related to what he needs to do.

OF: Well, thank you so much, Gina. It was a pleasure.

GL: No problem, thank you. I enjoyed it.


OF: So here's a message for any Chinese parents listening. If your son or daughter tells you that they want to be a hip-hop dancer, then just let them. Look how it turned out for Gina. One thing you also need to know about her, which didn't come up in our conversation, was that she taught herself English while living in Shanghai. I've heard this from other people too, but what's unique about Gina's method is that she only spoke with English speakers for a couple of months. In fact, she only looked at English-language menus. And bit by bit word by word, she brought us up up to this standard, without ever leaving China. In fact, her trip to Thailand - where she met her Co-Founder of Beach IoT - was actually her first ever trip overseas. So next time you hear me moan about how difficult it is to learn Chinese in Shanghai, can you please remind me of this? On this subject, I translated 辛苦了 [xīnkǔle] as 'good work', but I know it doesn't completely imbue the meaning of the phrase. So if anyone out there has a better suggestion for a translation, then please tell me. I forgot to explain what IPWS stands for, it's the International Professional Women's Society.

All of the images are up on social media, just go to @mosaicofchina_* on Instagram or @mosaicofchina on Facebook, or connect with me on ID: mosaicofchina* on WeChat, and I'll add you to the group there. This week, there is Gina and her objects; there's her favourite WeChat sticker of course, that's Super Mario rocking out; and there's also a photo of the cartoon character 喜羊羊 [Xǐyángyáng]. If you're in China, you've definitely seen this character. The reason why I was so excited to get this recommendation for a KTV song is because I need to learn easy songs in Mandarin. So this was a great one for me, it's all about fruit and vegetables, I can just about manage it. So watch out if you're going out for an evening of karaoke with me anytime soon. Gina's favourite place to visit was her hometown. So, Gina grew up in the city of 金昌 [Jīnchāng] in 甘肃 [Gānsù] Province, and I posted a photo of the Han Great Wall nearby. I learned from the internet that this was built between 200BC and 200AD. The parts of the wall that are usually visited by tourists as a day trip from Beijing are from between the 15th and 16th centuries, so it's a big contrast. If anyone listening has plans to go, then please tag me in a post so I can grind my teeth in jealousy.

I love making connections between the episodes, and Gina's was no exception. She mentioned the restaurants with a terrace on the high floors of IAPM, the fancy-schmancy mall. So that's three interviews in a row where there's a connection with terraces as people's favourite places to hang out. This is karma, since I'm always moaning about how the weather in Shanghai is totally inappropriate for terraces. But I'm obviously in a minority of one on that one. The other obvious connection was with Eric, the China Africa correspondent from Episode 03 of Season 01, since his object was also a notebook. But the nicest connection - for me at least - was with last week's episode with Jorge, who talked about burping. This is a great example of what Gina was talking about, how people in big cities in China overlook the bad behaviour of others, which affords the individual a lot of personal freedom. So I've been trying to use this as a mantra to improve my own terrible impatience. And for everyone else like me, please try doing it too. Don't try focusing on the bad behaviour of particular individuals, but pan out and allow yourself to see the equanimity of everyone else.

Mosaic of China is me Oscar Fuchs, editing by Milo de Prieto, artwork by Denny Newell, and China support from Alston Gong. I will see you next week.

*Different WeChat and Instagram handles were mentioned in the original recording. These IDs are now obsolete, and the updated details have been substituted.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 06 – The Product Pioneer (Gina LI, Beach IoT)

Oscar Fuchs: Creator, Producer and Host of the Mosaic of China podcast

Oscar Fuchs was the Co-Founder and Managing Director of a global executive search firm dedicated to the Human Resources profession. He was born in the UK and has lived in Asia for 18 years, including 3 years in Hong Kong SAR, and 7 years in mainland China. In 2019 he sold his company, and launched Mosaic of China.

In China, the podcast can also be found at 苹果播客, 小宇宙 and 喜马拉雅.

Internationally, it can also be found at Apple, Spotify, and all other podcasting platforms.

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