艾问传媒创始人、艾问资本合伙人艾诚受邀同中国驻约翰内斯堡总领馆副总领事郭斌、中国建设银行约堡分行行长、南非中国商贸协会会长张进国、南非小型企业发展部部长代表Nomvula Makgotlho、南非商务妇女协会主席Happy Ralinala等中国与南非政商代表出席论坛。
Hello Ladies and Gentleman,
Honored to be here.
My name is Gloria Ai… I like to say you can call me Miss “A-I”, which of course can mean a lot of different things these days.
A-I is my name, I was born with it. These days, though, everyone is talking about AI, artificial intelligence. And in Chinese, the word ai also means “love”. So there’s a lot going on in those two little letters.
There’s a saying I’ve always believed in which says that in the future, the sophistication of your A.I. — your technology — will determine your speed, how fast you can go… but only your ai— your love, your passion — can determine the direction you move in, your ultimate destination, and the people you meet along the way.
Technology empowers us, but ultimately it’s our humanity that sets us on our path.
I want to share with you today a bit about who I am, how I found my direction, and how I share my passion with the people I meet along the way — including all of you!
I grew up on an fruit orchard in the hills of Huangshan Mountain, in one of the most beautiful but least developed provinces of China. I stayed in that small town my entire childhood — I didn’t even see a train until I was 17 years old.
But from a very young age, I was curious about the world, about the future, and that curiosity eventually led me fara way from my hometown. I went to school at Peking University in Beijing… Iinterned at the United Nations in New York… I did my Masters at Harvard…
and my curiosity led me to my life’s work, in media, and led me around the world, beginning as an overseas correspondent and anchorwoman for China Central Television.
I loved media — in particular I loved interviewing the people that were changing the world, asking questions that would reveal an aspect of their character or their thought-process, understanding what lies behind a true leader.
After years of interviewing leaders across the global economy, I began to realize something very interesting: visionary leaders in the West tended to have big personalities and even bigger public profiles. In the US, founder’s names are synonymous with the companies and products they build. Think about…
Chinese founders are very different. There are more unicorns being born in China than anywhere else in the world today— but it always seems to be the companies that go global, not the entrepreneurs.
Besides Jack Ma, none of the Chinese visionaries behind this new wave of innovation have achieved international recognition at scale. Most of you have probably heard of Huawei, but how many of you have heard of Ren Zhengfei?
I call this “The Faceless Rise of Chinese Enterprise”. The humans behind the innovation, the decision-makers behind the investment, are largely left out of the story of China’s rise.
That’s why I started iAsk Media with the mission of profiling China’s most influential innovators and investors, and sharing their stories with the world.
I interview people for a living. Ilisten to people’s stories, and I present them to the public.
And throughout it all, we continue to explore the same question that drove my curiosity since the beginning of my career in media:
What makes a true leader successful? What separates the good from the great?
Since we started 4 years ago, we’ve produced over 120 premium video interviews with leading entrepreneurs and investors, published over 1000 podcasts and articles, and attracted over over 2billion views across a multi-platform media ecosystem of broadcast TV, web video, podcasts, radio, print publishing (both books and magazines), and a host of IP and channel partnerships.
I always believe that if you’re doing well in the present, it’s time to start investing in the future, a better future.
And I mean literally investing.
With iAsk Media now firmly established, we’ve launched iAsk Capital to make early- and growth-stage equity investments in media-tech and AI.
Our core competencies are simple and powerful:
1) As media operators, we experience first-hand the pain-points in our industry and can identify and evaluate the technologies that will shape the future of media businesses, and…
2）Having covered 1300 profile stories of business leaders around the world, we have a wealth of experience and a robust frameworks for assessing what makes a successful entrepreneur.
When we find the right market opportunity + the right talent, we support them with capital as well as with strategic access to our proprietary networks and finance resources.
We invest in audio platforms that are big data-enabled, such as Himalaya, and in AI-powered ad-tech and commercial software, such as MovieBook. Our pipeline even extends upstream into the basic infrastructure that will power next-gen technologies, such as Horizon Robotics, a company that designs and manufactures AI microchips for driverless cars and computer vision.
Through iAsk Media, I learned what makes a good leader. Through iAsk Capital, we’re learning what makes a good company.
But I also want to talk about what makes a good life.
We talk a lot about what who we are, and what we do, but it’s also important to talk about what we believe in — the aior the love that sets us on our path.
See what I’m wearing right now? Red.
Lots of people think of red as the color of love, but for me it’s actually more than that.
The little red dress is my calling card, my signature, but it’s also my battle suit.
My red dress doesn’t just give me color in life, it gives me confidence: the confidence to be bold, to experiment, to take risks, to ask tough questions and reach for difficult goals.
Red is my armor. It protects me and gives me courage, but like everyone else, beneath my armor, I have my own fears, my insecurities, my own vanity and weakness.
Fear is a funny thing, really. I like to think that FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Apprearing Real — that fear isa falsehood that can be confronted with truth. That’s why the best way to conquer your fears is by embracing them.
I went to face my own fears recently, to face my weaknesses out in the open without any armor at all.
Last month, I took a trip to Burning Man— a spiritual quest in the harshest deserts of Nevada, USA.
I wanted to test how reliant I was oncreature comforts and the support of others. It was, for me, a test of self-reliance and survival: I faced scorching heat all day and extreme cold allnight; I was covered in the dust of the desert for days, responsible for my own food and shelter in a vast, inhospitable landscape.
“Just Stay hydrated,” I told myself. “As long as you have water, you can survive anything.”
But my biggest take away from that trip was more than just how to survive by yourself in the wild — it was about how to care for others.
Burning Man has a tradition of “gifting”, of sharing what you have with strangers. I learned that even when you have almost nothing, there is a true joy in generosity.
Giving to others happens in many ways. One of the camps practiced “gifting” by making ice coffee for people during the hottest part of the day.
I was waiting in line to get a cup when I saw astranger: a plump-looking man who seemed to be looking at me closely and yet innocently. I looked back at him, and we just shared a moment, eyes locked.
Finally I spoke to him: “You have kindeyes.”
I watched as his face transformed, slowly, into a smile, and a tear gathered in the corner of those kind, brown eyes. I cried too.
“Can I give you a big hug?” he asked. I nodded.
“Don’t be shy. I understand you.”
That was all. We shared, we cared, we gave each other comfort and humanity, and then we went on with our lives. It was another kind of gift altogether.
The connection between individuals —even from entirely different backgrounds — can be very powerful. The same is true of the connection between countries.
At the recent Forum on China Africa Cooperation in Beijing, we heard a lot of reference to a “community of shared future,” which I think speaks to the connection that is possible between our nations and peoples.
Cooperation between China and South Africa, in particular, has proved beneficial for entrepreneurs and investorsfrom both countries.
Chinese brands such as Hisense are household names in South Africa, enjoying market leadership in consumer products such as TV sets and refrigerators. Chinese automaker BAIC’s new factory here in South Africa represents the largest investment of any Chinese car company on the African continent — and just three months ago, the first fully South African-made X25 rolled off its assembly line.
South African investors have also found tremendous success in the China market — none more so than Naspers, whose far-sighted investment in Tencent seventeen years ago has earned a staggering return of 1500x. Moving forward, we expect more and more foreign partners to benefit from China’s innovation and growth.
the recent inclusion of Chinese A-Shares on the MSCI and Russel indexes are a clear indicator of that trend.
iAsk has come here to Johannesburg today along with so many other Chinese entrepreneurs and investors because we believe that the connection between China and South Africa has the potential to grow bigger and deeper than ever before. We want to work with you to make it possible.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s been a long journey from the fruit orchard I grew up on to be with you here in Johannesburg.
I’ve learned a lot along the way — about what makes good leaders, what makes good companies, and what makes a good life.
I want to learn a lot more, from you.
Please reach out to me if:
1. you’re interested in working together in media, brand, or communications in China…
2. you have an investment opportunity you want to explore together, or…
3. you have kind eyes.
I look forward to sharing with you all.