The home team sits down with Liam Zhao, founder and CEO of Immersive, a startup that gives creators tools to produce engaging virtual content and events. Liam explains how engineering teams in the US and China differ, what it’s like to launch a startup in both San Francisco and Shanghai, and the merit of focusing on incremental innovation rather than massive market disruption. Plus: The incomparable value of good lighting.
Born and raised in China, Liam arrived in the US to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied human-computer interaction. After some initial “culture shock” at the differences between his education in China and the “open and innovative” Berkeley environment, Liam thrived. After graduating, he worked at LinkedIn before returning to China to found a startup called Zaihui, offering ecommerce SaaS solutions for retailers.
Liam describes the still-commonplace 9-9-6 schedule (working from nine in the morning until nine at night, six days a week) and the approach of assigning multiple teams to compete on different visions for the same product.
In Liam’s view, US and Chinese engineering teams take different approaches to work, work-life balance, innovation, and risk. US teams pursue “breakthrough innovations” that impress customers, while “hustling and hardworking” Chinese teams “want to move fast and break things” to copy what works and make it incrementally better.
What would a hybrid of these approaches look like? Liam’s new startup, Immersive, is combining teams from the US and China to find out.
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