On day 3 we toured our first company, Huawei. Huawei Technologies is a Chinese telecommunications company. The building we toured was built in 2014 and accommodates more than 1000 engineers. As soon as we arrived, we were all in awe of the beauty. Words and pictures cannot describe how beautiful the building was. We were given Bluetooth earphones to hear the tour guide who spoke into a box that broadcasted her voice to us. We toured the exhibition room which showcased a large wall with a live projection of a waterfall. It consisted of 40 projectors and we could even see the people in the background climbing the waterfall. The rest of the exhibition room consisted of their new technology and what they were working on. We learned about 5G usage which they are at the forefront of researching. 5G will mean much bigger connectivity, and faster speed. Currently, Huawei has 23 contracts in Europe; The United Kingdom and Belgium are just examples. One thing I found interesting about Huawei is that they are privately owned by the employees. However, they do release financial statements around the 29th of March because there is a lot of curiosity surrounding who they are and what they’re doing. Shares and stocks are given to all of the employees, with additional shares and stocks given out based on merit. This is done to tie the employees’ personal career to the company’s success. The company is dedicated to transparency and innovation. They have maintained a solid record of cyber security. When I asked how the company culture is different from other technology companies, I learned that dedication is the biggest driver in the company’s success. The company creates an atmosphere that everyone wants to work together and contribute to the success of the company. They have achieved 39% business growth since the last year and this is partly due to the spirit of working hard shared among the employees. The employees are very important to the founder, Ren Zhengfei. He only has about 1.16% of the company’s shares because he wants to give more to the employees. Since the company is so interested in innovation, they invest 15% of their revenue to innovation and 30% into research. Since they do not have the pressure of the market to deliver profit in the short term, they are able to allocate revenue as they wish. This was reflected in the decrease in cash flow from 17% to 18% from 2017 to 2018 because they were dedicated to research.
Although Huawei is not in the car industry, they work with engineers in the field. They are currently using artificial intelligence, AI, for crash courses. Also, they are tackling connectivity problems in under developed countries. RuralStar is the solution for villagers who would previously need to go to the top of a hill to get a connection to networks and did not want to invest in base stations because they are expensive. If they have good solar or wind, it provides a good alternative for power as well. Overall, it helps to bring basic networks to under developed areas. Besides China, Huawei sells the most products in the Middle East. Artificial intelligence has become a big deal and is solving problems creatively. We tested some of their products that use AI. Using a camera, we were able to control a robot using just hand motions. I may not be athletic in real life, but I was able to get the robot to kick a ball into a goal… that counts right?
After the amazing Huawei visit, we hit the mall for lunch. Apparently, nicer restaurants are located in their malls. But our malls only have food courts. This restaurant did not have a spinning plate in the middle, so we had to pass around the dishes to take portions for ourselves. This was not as convenient as the other restaurants, but I still enjoyed this sharing style of eating.
Our next company visit was VIPKID. VIPKID is an online program that teaches English to kids ages 4 to 12. The company has over 500,000 paying students and over 60,000 teachers. The interesting part about this company is that the teachers do not need to know the native language of the kid they are teaching English to. The company creates personalized learning experiences. After school education is a huge market. In China, 32% of parents are willing to spend over half of their household income on after school tutoring. The company uses behavior data collection and analysis. This means that they analyze the interactions the kids have with the teachers and use this information to improve their experiences. This includes when they’re smiling more or interacting with the camera. They also analyze the conversations between the students and teachers. In the future, they are looking into artificial intelligence teachers to supplement regular teachers. In addition, they are developing Lingo bus which provides Chinese language solutions for learners all over the world. The company is tackling many challenges such as shortages and uneven distribution of quality teachers, and inconsistent and often impersonal learning experiences. I enjoyed the company visit very much and thought it was a very interesting but strong business model.
After a day filled with new technology, we were able to tour the Beijing Olympic center. It was a nice end to the day to stroll through the center and think about how many famous athletes competed in that very area.