World Startup Report
Many successful entrepreneurs focus on developing their fledgling startups. Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Bowei Gai (E'06, '07) takes a broader view. With his "World Startup Report," he aims to develop the world of startups.
Gai set out this past New Year's Eve to travel the globe in search of startup ecosystems. He plans to document these varying cultures, hitting 36 cities in 29 countries over nine months time, facilitating cross-culture networking and spreading his own hard-won knowledge.
"Most people don't realize that there are great tech companies outside of the U.S.," explained Gai. "There are so many interesting, innovative startups out there — many of them are over $1 billion in valuation now."
"It's fascinating how the Internet opened up opportunities — you can build a startup virtually anywhere," he continued. "I want to share some of these stories with the rest of the world so we can all learn about the opportunities around the globe."
A serial entrepreneur at only 28, Gai began with Snapture, a mobile photography company. His second outing, business-card app CardMunch, was acquired in 2011 by professional networking giant LinkedIn hours before LinkedIn's IPO filing.
Through it all, Gai relied on his CMU network. In fact, CardMunch co-founders included alumni Sid Viswanathan (E'06), Sudeep Yegnashankaran (E'09), and K-9 Ventures angel investor Manu Kumar (E'95, CS'97).
Now he's "taking a break" by extending that network around the world.
"I get a lot of credit when I tell people around the world that I graduated from CMU," said Gai. "They know I am a true techie at heart and people open up to me in a way they don't often do. It really helps when you can connect to the entrepreneur at a deeper level because you learn the most amazing things."
Gai's project began accidentally, when a slideshow he'd posted after a vacation to China went viral. He'd put together "the China Startup Report" detailing his observations of that growing startup ecosystem for his personal circle, but overnight, it hit the front page of slide-hosting powerhouse SlideShare.
He quickly realized that he could do a great deal more to "help the startups around the world." With the support and occasional accompaniment of other entrepreneurs and investors, Gai is offering the resulting reports for free, online.
His colorful, no-nonsense observations range from:
"Nepal: Don't discount this hidden gem — even in a country where there are rations of only 12–16 hours of electricity per day, you can build tech firms with $100M exits," to
"Greece/Spain: This could be a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade. Fifty percent unemployment rate among youth might turn out to be the fire-starter that Greece/Spain startup ecosystems need."
Wherever he lands, he often finds Carnegie Mellon company.
"I've met many CMU alumni from all parts of the world, including Argentina and Thailand," Gai said. "In fact, next month we'll be in South Korea and the local alumni chapter is putting together an event for us. I'm always glad to have the CMU network behind me."