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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Persistent geek turns passion into start-ups
     2015-February-13  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Luo Songsong

    songsongluo@126.com

    DURING a panel discussion at a maker’s space recently, all guests were asked to use a key phrase to describe the decade in which they grew up. Zeng Dejun, a veteran, audiophile and entrepreneur born in the 1950s, wrote the character “红” (meaning red) on a piece of blank paper, implying that Maoist thoughts were the dominant ideology in the society.

    “I prefer the character “洪” (meaning wave or tide) to comment on the world now because a new wave of entrepreneurship has come,” said Zeng, wearing an army green vest in his meeting room, which is filled with vintage radios and stereos from floor to ceiling.

    Zeng said the first wave was triggered by the introduction of the reform and opening up policy in the 1980s, followed by Deng Xiaoping’s tour of southern China in 1992. Then the birth of the Internet and the proliferation of smartphones incubated new generations of start-ups, he continued. He missed the first wave because of his military service, but he rode the second wave to establish a company in the audio industry. After decades of operation, Zeng said he is ready to take his chances in the coming era, in which he says the Internet will permeate all aspects of life.

    Zeng grew up in a remote town in the western part of Central China’s Hunan Province, where radio was the only connection to the outside world. In primary school, he disassembled and put together old radios. In middle school, he spent all the money he had earned with his older sister over the summer holiday to buy a radio that could receive a stable signal.

    “I dreamed of making the best radio in the world,” Zeng said. Not long after he started school, the Cultural Revolution broke out. However, Zeng’s hometown wasn’t significantly affected thanks to its seclusion, allowing him to focus on studying until he graduated from high school in 1974.

    During the socio-political movement, Chairman Mao declared that urban youth should be sent to mountainous areas or farming villages to learn from farmers. During this time, when Mao’s book of quotes was flouted as the only textbook necessary, Zeng was learning skills.

    Because of his performance, he was sought after by the town’s broadcasting department, which would have given him the chance to change his household registration from rural to urban, a life-changing privilege at the time. However, this opportunity was stifled by his mother, who thought the town was too small to foster his big dreams.

    It was in 1976 that Zeng saw a glimmer of hope, enlisting in the army to work on missiles. However, instead of learning that, he was assigned to build tunnels. During the training camp for new soldiers, he repaired a radio for a colonel, which earned him the privilege to become a telecommunications soldier, as he had aspired to be.

    In 1978, the Cultural Revolution ended and a national conference was convened to call on people to study technology. It was then that Zeng was transferred to a scientific research institute in Beijing.

    Two years later, he went to university to further his studies and was assigned to teach in a college after graduation. Meanwhile, he continued to research audio and video technology and became one of the first people in China to study Hi-Fi stereos.

    With an investment, Zeng became a stakeholder of a record company in Shenzhen in 1992. Though the company made a lot of profits the first year, he was told they didn’t earn any money. “Back then, not many people (here) knew about business operations and I made some mistakes and lost control of the company,” Zeng said.

    Thus the cooperation was terminated and Zeng co-founded another company, but there was a policy at that time stating that only people with Shenzhen hukou, or permanent household registration, could register a company. So, another partner with Shenzhen hukou was invited to collaborate and Zeng provided technical support. After only a few months in operation, the company earned millions.

    But one morning he arrived to an empty office. Everything had been moved out by the other partners, who tried to take exclusive possession of the company. Before long, Zeng had established another company, which later became the top brand of valve amplifiers in China.

    “Military experiences hardened my character and strengthened my mind,” said Zeng.

    In 2002, Zeng left the army. At a crossroads, he saw four options: become a public servant, find a job and get an allowance from the government every month, retire on social security or make a large amount of money once and live off it until he died.

    Zeng chose the last path. “I didn’t choose to make valve amplifiers, though I had experience and resources in the industry because I believed in the prospects of the IT industry early on,” said Zeng.

    In 2000, a website interviewed Zeng and asked him about the future of stereos, and he replied that they would become connected to the Internet so they could access any kind of music anytime, anywhere. In the next few years, he continued his research and published a series of books about his knowledge. In 2006, he saw audio products developed by Sonos at the IFA consumer electronics exhibition in Berlin and prepared his third start-up, this time developing Wi-Fi stereos. “At that time, a lot of people didn’t understand me. Some of them even thought I was crazy, but I always stick to my heart,” said Zeng.

    More than 95 percent of the world’s audio products are made in China, but Chinese people don’t own any patents in the industry. However, the opportunity appeared when things went from offline to online. “I invested a lot into research and development even before I started Airsmart Audio,” said Zeng.

    “Speaking of riding the wave of making intelligent hardware, I thought it was strange because there wasn’t even such a term when we started to invest in the high-tech research. But it proved that opportunities will favor those who have made full preparations,” said Zeng.

    In the middle of the interview, he took out his mobile phone and played several classic songs from the stereos beside him. In order to enjoy old music, he made a tube radio with a wooden appearance for himself in 2014. Many of his friends liked it, so he decided to try using a Chinese kickstarter-esque platform for the radio called Tesslor.

    “To his surprise, the first batch of 300 radios sold out quickly. I think it’s because some people in modern society still pursue high-quality lives. Radio connects me with the past but I will devote myself to creating the future and to developing the best intelligent stereos in the world,” said Zeng.

    “Zeng has focused on his interest for decades and is approaching his dream of making the best stereo out there. However, more importantly, Zeng is willing to help the younger generation of entrepreneurs with his experiences,” said Xuan, manager of Shenzhenware, a local WeChat account that focuses on makers and hardware start-ups.

    “I prefer the word “洪” (meaning wave or tide) to comment on the world now because a new wave of entrepreneurship has come.”

    — Zeng Dejun

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