Starting businesses in their teenage, some young Chinese Internet entrepreneurs have turned their sharp business acumen and creativity into fortune and fame.
From "Storm" to "cloud"
27-year-old Gu Zhicheng is the CEO of Kanbox, a leading cloud storage and sharing service provider in China. In the year 2000, when he was just 15, he set up a popular BBS, and after one year the site was receiving an average of over 200,000 hits everyday.
Four years later, Gu developed the Storm Player, one of the most popular multimedia players in China, along with a friend whom he had only met on an on-line forum.
The two lived in different cities, and didn't even meet in person until several years later, after the Storm Player had became a national hit - having been downloaded and installed over 50 million times in China
"Initially I developed the software only for personal use," Gu told Xinhua. "Back then few media player softwares were compatible with various video formats, so I wanted to create one".
As the number of users continued to rise, Gu and his partner found it increasingly overwhelming to run the software by themselves. So in 2007, they sold the product.
Although the deal made Gu a multimillionaire, he still kept his entrepreneurial spirit and since then, has devoted himself to cloud storage service in China.
"The other day, we had a discussion about whether we should work 14 or 16 hours a day. Everyone adopts a round-the-clock work style as second nature. We're happy to be pioneers in the cloud storage service.
"The Internet is one of the few business arenas where we can start from zero and still achieve success at an early age," he said.
Gu is also expecting a boom in online storage services in China, as the number of the country's mobile web users continues to soar.
Unlike Gu Zhicheng, who remains largely low-key, 29-year-old Leo Chen, also known as Chen Ou, has kept a high profile through his charismatic personal branding.
Leo Chen, co-founder and CEO of Jumei.com, the first China-based cosmetics group-buying site made himself his company's public face. The handsome young man has not only starred in a popular online commercial for his company, but has also appeared on billboards and various TV shows. He has also kept a high profile by remaining active in social media.
"I endorse my own brand because I think a company's reputation and value is indelibly linked to that of its leader. The CEO naturally becomes the company's public face," he said.
The young entrepreneur also believes that he has an insight into the company's target female consumers.
"Why do I sell cosmetics to women? Because I believe women like to make themselves look good for people who appreciate them. So men's opinions are important in women's choice of cosmetics," Chen said.
His site has ascended to become one of China's top cosmetics e-tailers through this blanket promotional strategy. The budgeted personal branding, as Chen said, has saved his company about 100 million yuan in advertising expenses.
Leo Chen studied in Singapore from the age of 16. In 2005 during his last year at Nanyang Technological University, he founded Garena, now one of the world's largest online game platforms. Later he received an MBA from Stanford, sold Garena, and moved his business focus to China.
Initially a cosmetics group-buying site, Jumei.com has grown into a major B2C (business to customer) platform for cosmetics.
But before Chen established the site in 2010, he and two other co-founders, both male, had no experience in e-commerce, or in the selling women's cosmetics.
"While others pump a lot of money into advertising, our ads simply spread by reputation. While others invite celebrities to endorse their brands, I just bring myself out to represent my company," Chen said.
27-year-old Jiang Lei is the CEO of Beijing Tiexue Technology, an operator of China's largest military affairs e-community site Tiexue.net.
Like many other young entrepreneurs, Jiang showed exceptional talent since he was a child.
A fast learner, he continued to skip grades at school, when until at the age of 16 he was enrolled at Tsinghua University, one of China's most prestigious universities.
Majoring in materials science, Jiang developed a keen interest in online communities. After only a year at university he had established the Tiexue e-community. By the age of 20, he had founded his own company and become its CEO.
Since his business continued to grow rapidly, in 2006, he decided to quit his doctorate at Tsinghua University. For two years, he didn't even tell his parents about his decision.
"I moved out of school and lived in a nine-square-meter room with my colleague. Sometimes it got so humid in there that moss would grow on the bed," he told Xinhua.
In 2007, Jiang Lei saw niche opportunities in the specialization trend of e-commerce based on his popular e-community, which had an average of 30 million hits every day last year.
"We already have a large membership base in our e-community, and the members could have an interest in military-inspired casual wear, including jackets, shirts, pants and footwear.
"If we can attract them to our online shop, then we're a success," he said.
Last year, through selling military-inspired casual wear and other related goods online, the company achieved sales of over 100 million yuan. And Jiang said sales are continuing to grow.
Mass e-tailers, with their competitive edge based on scale and venture capital, have posed challenges to specialty e-tailing through virtual communities.
To combat the problem, Jiang said it's crucial to "go upstream," by developing close relationships with manufacturers.
"Vertical e-tailers need to build strong cooperation with renowned brands in their spheres and help to promote and improve the brands as well as provide value-added service," he said.
Jiang Lei also said, "Compared with other spheres, the Internet has a lower threshold for young entrepreneurs to start their own business."