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October 26, 2017

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Expats win prize in entrepreneurs contest

THREE American expatriates from a startup company yesterday won this year’s “Top 10 Up-and-Coming Entrepreneurs in Shanghai” award — one of the longest running startup contests in the city.

They were also the first ever foreign participants in this biennial contest, which has been held since 2009 by Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.

Charlie Erickson, Jay Thornhill and Tyler McNew are founders of “Baopals,” which makes all products on Taobao and Tmall accessible in English to customers who cannot read Chinese.

Thornhill in his speech at the contest said that Baopals now has 23,000 WeChat followers, 20,000 registered users, 144,000 orders placed, 800,000 items purchased and 42.5 million yuan (US$6.4 million) revenue in the past 19 months since their foundation.

Erickson, talking to Shanghai Daily after winning the award, called it a “mystery” how the team took part in this contest. “We won a foreign startup competition a few months ago and then we found ourselves in this one, and all of the information we got was in Chinese,” he said. Shanghai Daily also ran a story about the team last August.

Erickson said they didn’t really come with the expectation to win because Shanghai is a large city with a lot of talent. Nevertheless they were the only foreigners in the contest.

“It feels fantastic to win, but we only have been focusing on the product and we keep working on what we’re doing,” he said.

“Our goal is to get more exposure through this contest so people can hear about what we do and help us expand overseas.”

Erickson added that their goal is to bring Chinese products and Chinese shopping to the rest of the world.

Having lived and worked in Shanghai for five years, he said he planned to stay only a year before coming out but now doesn’t see himself leaving because the city is a “fertile ground” for startups.

An award ceremony will be held in December for the winners, and the bureau said yesterday the prize comes with money, though the amount wasn't specified.

The other winners are involved in biotechnology, medical equipment, education technology, the Internet and big data, food supply and robotic manufacturing.


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