Antony Yip seems too young to order food in a smart restaurant, let alone set up an Internet company that just raised $6.5 million from an American venture capital firm. But order he does--fish and chips, followed by ice cream--two scoops of strawberry, one chocolate. Nor is his age--he's a boyish 21 and dresses in baggy trousers and sneakers--the only anomaly. Yip runs a collection of 15 Chinese-language websites assembled under his umbrella site, --though he can neither write nor speak Chinese properly. It's ridiculous, really, he says, smiling disarmingly.
But under the new logic of the Internet, Yip (whose father, Peter Yip, set up Chinadotcom) has become a hot new player in the China market. His strategy of buying small mainland websites and putting them together with enhanced design and backup is making people take him very seriously. Among other things, his sites offer online games, soccer results, jokes and free software. Yip may not speak much Chinese, but he identifies with the energy of China's budding Internet sector: It's not because they have connections or went to Qinghua University. It is because they can design a Web page. And that's great. Yip spent only one year at university, then came to work with his father at Chinadotcom for several years until he set up his own company in 1998. At first he was offering free e-mail, but as he looked for business partners in China, he began to discover all these cool sites and started picking them up, cheap. Soccerchina.com cost him just $7,000 last July when he bought it from two brothers living in Guangxi. Yip claims his 15 websites get 3.9 million hits a day. The kid knows a bargain when he sees one.