If the Internet attracts smart people, Shao Yibo comes with extra credits. Born in Shanghai, Shao was China's national math champion--not once, but two years running--before heading to Harvard to study physics. After graduation he joined Boston Consulting Group, which paid for him to get an M.B.A degree, also at Harvard. By then, he could join an investment bank, a private equity fund, return to BCG--anything he wanted. I decided on China's Internet, he says, because the timing was right.
Shao, now 26, drew up the outline of a business plan for a Chinese auction site similar to eBay and took it to Silicon Valley last June. In one day, I got funding commitments from four institutions, he says. I only wanted to raise $100,000 but ended up with $400,000. He returned to Shanghai and in September set up Eachnet.com, now China's most popular online auction house. He calls it an auction site with Chinese characteristics, since many transactions are never fulfilled. A lot of people at this early stage are playing around. There is almost no sense of contract obligation. One item that does seem to sell well: mobile phones.But investors are sold on the idea. At the end of last year Shao closed another round of funding, this time for $6.5 million. I was planning to go to the U.S., but after one trip to Hong Kong I already had six venture capital firms that wanted to invest. With money like that swirling around, Shao has to focus on not losing his head--or his business. I grew up a lot in the last year. So did his net worth.