Meet the China ‘whisperers’ who get the big deals done in Silicon Valley
When Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick wanted advice about whom to hire to run his ride-hailing business in China, he asked Carmen Chang, a longtime Silicon Valley lawyer and investor who had helped a previous generation of tech companies navigate that murky territory.
When Uber sold its China business to its rival Didi this week, Chang was a trusted confidante.
When Lyft, Uber’s smaller rival, needed an entree into China, the company’s president turned to another Silicon Valley insider who shuttles between worlds. The introduction from Connie Chan, a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, to China’s largest ride-hailing company led to a $100 million investment and partnership.
Behind the scenes of an unprecedented flood of capital from China into Silicon Valley over the past two years is an elite network of brokers. These brokers do more than deal-making; they play anthropologist and cultural translator — from coaching startup founders about the culturally appropriate place to sit at a conference room table in China to breaking down how emojis are used in Chinese apps. Their acumen is growing more valuable, entrepreneurs say, as they navigate a cast of hard-to-parse characters with alluring deep pockets and promises of big business opportunities overseas.
“She is the whisperer between China and Silicon Valley,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of Cloudflare, a web security startup, of Chang. Last year, Chang helped Prince — whose company had given up on China in 2011 — clinch a partnership with Baidu, China’s search giant. “There’s very few that really understand both sides.” – READ MORE