This is a 45 minute speech. I was told that this cannot be simply a speech about Tudou as business, but something inspirational and personal. I have never delivered any such speech longer than 5 minutes, and they were usually delivered to a captive audience of the Tudou team who are obligated to listen and applaud. It would have been so much easier to peddle to you the numbers and facts of Tudou, and why you should allocate your entire media budget to Tudou. I can do that for hours.
I guess I will give you some background of what motivated me to start Tudou and keep on doing what I am doing for the last five years, and likely many more years to come. Not from a business perspective, but a personal perspective.
What motivates me?
The first, it is about getting no satisfaction. My parents are both doctors. 30 years ago, it was the common practice for all the workers of state and their family to live right inside their work unit. So we lived inside the hospital. I grew up inside the hospital walls and played in the hospital courtyards. It was the leading hospital in our province, so naturally the hospital got the most difficult cases. The very sick, the incurable, the dying. When I was from 8 to 12 years old, my family lived for 4 years in a dorm unit right next wall to the hospital mortuary, where the dead ended up, and they usually proceeded there deep at night, accompanied by relatives whose customs was that howling was the only proper way of mourning. It was a big hospital. Every night some patient would usually die, and often more than one. I was not terribly disturbed. I grew up among the sick and dead, I am used to them, and to this day, I never lose sleep at night no matter what happens. But I suppose those years must have left some marks upon a kid at an impressionable age. Life is probably meaningless, and surely very fragile. Rolling Stone’s song, ‘can’t get no satisfaction’. I have not been able to get satisfaction out of anything, and I have to move constantly. To the U.S., and back to China, and to France, and back, drop out of schools whenever I could not bear it, start Tudou, try new things. Being satisfied means death to me.
The second, to add a little color to life. I went to the U.S. when I was 19, confident and very ignorant. But I was fortunate to meet a great professor at my college. George was an old man already, about to retire, Jewish, distinguished, a consummate New Yorker. He took me under his wings. One day, he asked me, “you look disturbed, why?” My pompous reply: “I’m thinking about the meaning of my life.” And he sighed, “don’t we all.” I always remembered this conversation when I get too narcissistically worried about the purpose of my life. Well, it is most certainly pointless. Not just for me, but for everybody, even for my most distinguished professor who still did not know at his age. What I can do, I always remind myself, is to add a little bit of color to the pale world, and the inevitably pale life. To create something colorful and exciting, and ignore whatever meaning it carries. My job is to create, let others interpret whatever meaning at their leisure.
The third, I don’t like to regret. I don’t like to look back to the past, and I really don’t like to look back to the past in regret. A couple years ago, I did a bicycle trip with a couple buddies. We pedaled from Lhaza to Kathmandu, a trip of 14 days and 10 mountain passes over 5000 meters high. The most difficult pass was the 108 curve, the top of pass at 5200 meters, right before the Mount Everest base camp. I was not in the best shape. It was 6pm, getting dark, and freezing. My buddies had reached the top and gone over. It was too cold and the air too thin for anyone to linger. My knee was hurting like it was going to break. I was going 5 kilometers an hour on a sandy road, headwind, uphill climbing. To give up was the easiest thing. My supply jeep was a short distance away, and one call on my phone with the ever-present China Mobile network would have summoned it. But I knew I would regret it someday, if I gave up. The question was simply, “do I want to regret it the next 20, 30 years, for as long as I live, or do I just kill myself a bit more over the next 2 hours and forget about the whole thing?” So I pushed on. I got to the top around 8pm. Now, looking back, I have totally forgotten the exhaustion and the pain. I remember only the glimpse of Mount Everest in the last fading light, and the exhiliration of reaching the top. And no regret.
That was the personal part.
Coming back to Tudou, my aspiration for Tudou, is to have distribution everywhere. And to bring fun and relevant content to our audience.
The future of tudou is the TV networks of yesterday. Not in the specifics of one way delivery or two way sharing, size or definition,
etc. but in its influence on people’s life.
Distribution: mobile screen, television screen connected to computer, computer screen, Ipad, and who knows what else might be coming. We want to be everywhere, where ever the Internet is present. Tudou will grow bigger and have wider distribution through the open Internet, as inevitable as iceberg will proceed in ice age and recede in our age.
Content. There have been many approaches and many models and everyone claims that theirs is the winning mode. But let us not think about the models for now. Let us go back to the basics. What move people? What were the shows or stories in your young age that you still remember 5, 10 , 20 years later?
The laments from the bygone ages, “it was the best of the times. It was the worst of the times.” Well, every generation, for tens of thousands of years now, probably all think similarly, more or less. And, similarly, the older generation always look at the younger ones as degenerated, reckless, and the old always worry about the future for the young. And the young always think that this is a brave new world. The generation of 100 years ago was as breathless about air travel and electricity, as we are about the Internet and the smart phones. They were as excited as creating new way of painting, impressionism, surrealism, cubism, as many of our video creators as creating new way of telling a story and rendering it differently. Can we let users decide the storyline? Can we do 3D and virtual reality? Can we have shorter video clip at lower cost with greater frequency and yet still compelling? Can we have four screens going at the same time, each telling a different angles of story?
Well, they might all work. A good story is a good story. A good drama is a good drama. Human nature stays pretty much the same. To me, all of above are merely the different ways of telling a story. To debate, for example, which way of doing interaction with the audience is better, is akin to debate whether it is best to tell a story in a first person or third person perspective, or whether it’s more involving to start telling a story with a dead person as a narrator such as “Sunset Boulevard”, or whether a 5 minute long shot in “the secret in their eyes” is better than the fast cut of the “Bourne Trilogy” movies. To me, anything that moves audience’s heart, created within budget, and delivers value for the advertisers and partners, is a piece of good content. Our audience watches on Tudou movies, television series, news, clips about cross-dressing transvestite shopping in flashy fashion stores. They are all entertainment to a particular type of audience, and to a particular advertiser and partner. We as a platform for the youth audience, any content that is fresh, exciting, young, is especially good.
Beyond the immediate business matters of content and distribution, I have often been asked about how it feels like to be a pioneer, to push the boundaries. My answer is: we really have no options but to push the boundaries.
We are not living in the age of great explorers who could cross the unknown ocean and discover a whole new continent. And I don’t see how human species can explore beyond the Moon or the Mars in my lifetime. The deep and great unknown for our age, is the human genome and the Internet. I have no expertise in biology, so I cannot dive deep into the mysterious ocean of human genome. But the great Internet, and the billions of humans connected to it, It is my ocean, my space.
Like all explorers before, there are plenty of things in the world to concern us and tie us down: money, relationships, families, values, customs, rules and regulations, but since we are here in this pale world to paint some colorful colors, to explore, to create new things, to inevitably break up things, to push the boundaries, and since surely we will get old and get mature and settled down, become one day the establishment to be broken up by the newer generation, and become the dead old man, I know the boundaries will eventually catch up and get me. But when they do get me, I hope to have traveled more distances, and have had a lot of fun.
I wish everyone have fun in Shanghai