24 October 2018
Xiaomi founder Lei Jun is known for his warm personality and willingness to listen to others. Photo:
Xiaomi founder Lei Jun is known for his warm personality and willingness to listen to others. Photo:

Character lessons from Xiaomi’s Lei Jun

Unlike many founders of internet companies who have strong personalities, Xiaomi’s Lei Jun has been known for his mellow character.

It is said that Lei has never yelled at his staff. When he encounters a problem, he just smiles and gets down to business, and tries to find a solution. In social gatherings, Lei is always a good listener.

Xiaomi and LeEco almost started out at the same time and they also have a number of overlapping business interests. Now, while Xiaomi is advancing steadily, LeEco seems to be embroiled in one trouble after another.

Chinese media reported that nearly 16 billion yuan of LeEco assets were frozen last week.

Xiaomi, meanwhile, recently signed a deal with Finnish network equipment supplier Nokia to share patents in coming years and jointly develop AI, VR and IoT technology. Xiaomi also acquired patent assets from Nokia as part of the deal.

Also, Xiaomi signed a strategic cooperation deal with China Minsheng Bank. Both parties will work on financial technology, e-commerce ecosystem, etc.

In fact, Xiaomi might be the most low-profile internet giant in China. Bigger rivals like Alibaba and Tencent have dominated newspaper headlines all the time. Xiaomi seems to catch media attention when it launches new handset models.

The company has shipped a total of 41.5 million smartphones last year, according to IDC, almost double that of LeEco. Xiaomi now ranks as China’s fifth largest smartphone maker with an 8.9 percent market share, compared with Apple’s 9.6 percent.

Xiaomi has also made good progress in smart TV business, which is a big focus of LeEco. Xiaomi’s various smart TV sets achieved record sales in Tmall during the June 18 online shopping festival. It reported a more than five-fold jump in smart TV sales, and beat LeEco for the first time.

LeEco’s deepening debt crisis, suspension of several TV programs on its video platform due to cash crunch, as well as the failure to pay its suppliers have most likely discouraged customers from buying its products.

While LeEco is suffering from liquidity problem, Xiaomi shows no hurry to raise funds. Lei Jun disclosed last year that his company holds more than 10 billion yuan in cash.

Xiaomi is estimated to have a valuation of US$46 billon, which makes it the world’s third most valuable tech start-up, after Uber’s US$68 billion valuation and DiDi’s US$50 billion valuation.

Lei is Kingsoft’s chairman and largest shareholder. He also founded, an online bookstore, which was sold to Amazon for US$75 million in 2004. And he started UCWEB, which was acquired by Alibaba for US$4.35 billion in 2014.

Having created a number of successful startups, Lei serves as a clear example that one can achieve a lot in the tech industry despite not having a brash or flamboyant personality.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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