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Five Ways to Make Money When You Are Famous



Other than starring for films, TV series,  variety shows or advertisements, what could famous people do to heap up wealth? This pyramid presents the five most common ways by their relevance to the fame that a Chinese star has accumulated through his or her career.


1. Business Related to the Entertainment Industry–Start one’s own studio

  • Invest in films, TV series
  • Produce films, TV series
  • Discover and promote new actors/actresses

Starting one’s own studio not only include arranging the actors/actresses’ work with more mobility, but also include various developing strategies including promoting actors/actresses’ in the younger generation, investing in or even producing films or TV series, and even selling books. These business often help to promote the owner in they have the closest relation with the owners’ original career.


Photo retrieved from the official Weibo account of Fan Bingbing’s studio

One of the most successful studios is Fan Bingbing’s studio, which she admits that brings her more profit than her job as an actress back in 2008. According to Forbes, Bingbing Fan’s annual income has reached $20 million in 2015.

Other example: Lin Xinru, Su Youpeng, Li Bingbing, Yang Mi.

A less common way is becoming a shareholder in the carrier companies in the entertainment industry, which requires both economic strength and profound influence in the show business.

2. Online store

Lots of stars choose to gather their entrepreneurial gold by opening stores online, mostly through the Taobao marketplace platform, selling products that cannot be put into one category by even the most reasonable person.

Some choose to sell their second-hand clothes or accessories in these stores for charity. Jiang Yiyan, an outstanding Chinese actress, started her Taobao store in 2009 and put all the profits in charity. Her merchandise include evening dresses she wears in performances or to film festivals (for instance, dress from Ports, approximately $830) or her backpack that accompanies her in charitable events(approximately $13).


Dress from Ports, Yiyan Jiang in her drama play July and Ansheng, image retrieved from Yiyan Jiang’s Taobao store

Some stars treat their online store as real business by collaborating with certain brands of facial masks or cosmetics or start their own online brand.

Similar to the restaurant businesses, what make these online stores different from the vast sea of counterparts is the identity of the presumed owner. “The foremost benefit to have Ms. Xu as our leader is that Ms. Xu herself ensures the online store’s survival at the initial stage,” said the operator who is responsible for the accessory store of Xu Jinglei, one of the most famous female director, actress and writer in China in Iwshang’s interview.

Lauched in 2010 with Xu Jinglei’s successful movie Go Lala Go, the store has now grow into one of the most popular stores in Taobao’s Star Lounge, which consist of 326 stores opened by famous Chinese stars. The best sale in her online store is a pair of silver ear buds, which has been purchased 42,585 times as of June 2015.


Taobao poster collaborated with Xu Jinglei’s Film Dear Enemy, image retrieved from Xu Jinglei’s Taobao store

3. Restaurant business/bar business

Purchasing second-hand clothes from stars could be an indirect way to gain the kind of intimacy desired by fans, but the possibility of bumping into a star while having a casual dinner is definitely a catch for average people.

Ren Quan, a successful star/entrepreneur who has stepped into the restaurant business since college, accompanied by Li Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming (both listed in the 2015 Forbes China Celebrity List), started a hotpot restaurant named Re La Yi Hao in 2014.

This restaurant has over 1000 comments and an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 on (Chinese version of Yelp).The average cost per person in Re La Yi Hao hotpot restaurant is around $20. In a year, three sub branch restaurants of Re La Yi Hao opened in Beijing.

fans kiss

A fans kissing the cardboard of Ren Quan, image retrieved from the official Weibo account of Re La Yi Hao

Having a star as the owner alone does not seem enough to assure the success of a restaurant or a bar. Sun Nan’s Dutai restaurant, Zhao Wei’s Le Fu restaurant, Nie Yuan’s Qian Restaurant all went out of business after several years’ struggle. Comments showed that customers often had higher expectations on such business for they trusted the taste of the stars and would probably accept a comparatively higher price as long as the service/product fits it. For those who failed, their business were either too pricey and at the same time not satisfactory, or just simply did not went out well as a regular business– the reasons for average restaurant bar to go down counts for the businesses under celebrities’ names too.

4. Fashion brand


A Xin in STAYREAL’s Avenger edition, photo retrieved from STAYREAL’s official Weibo account

STAYREAL is probably one of the most wanted T-shirt brands for young Chinese people both for the identity of its co-founder A Xin, the lead singer in famous Taiwanese alternative rock band Wu Yue Tian and for the high quality and delicate design of the clothes made possible by the other co-founder Bu Er Liang, a famous illustrator and designer in Taiwan.

Started from 2007, STAYREAL has opened 26 stores in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Other fashion brands owned by stars:

NPC(New Project Center) by Li Chen, Pan Weibo

STAGE by Luo Zhixiang

CLOT by Chen Guanxi

5. Areas of interest

It is not a rare phenomenon to see a star making profit by selling products to the customers in which the majority are their fans. For those who choose to start their business without much support from their gained fame, however, the business act might be more challenging.

For instance, Nicholas Tse, a famous Hong Kong singer/actor, started Post Production Office Limited  in 2003. The company was the only post production company that relies solely on digital technology in China at that time and 22-year-old Nicholas Tse put almost every penny he earned into the business. The success of Post Production Office Limited is seen through its participation in these movies: Bruce Lee My Brother(2010), Hot Summer Days(2010), 1942 (2012), A Simple Life(2012). The annual profit of PPOL has reached $15 million since 2012.

“This is really intense for me. Maybe because this is my first time to show up as an entrepreneur, in front of the crowd. What is really odd is that I’ve been doing this most of my life.”

“I do feel that I am talking to another caliber. I’m left out.”

Quitted school as a tenth grader, Tse encouraged the college students to get through it and get the diploma that he would be willing to trade “all the wealth and so called fame and glory” that he had right now for during his speech in HKUST.

It is not hard to figure out that the relevance to the fame that a Chinese star has accumulated through his or her career is negatively related to the feasibility of their business. How the fame shall be used actually depends on the kind of business that a star chooses to start. The name of the star might be the cornerstone of success in online second-hand clothes store, but it also might worsen a customer’s dining experience when he/she has higher expectation.

Even for the stars, it takes great effort and strength to make the transition to an entrepreneur. Without the entrepreneurial spirit, the fame might be a burden instead of help (see Lin Chih-ying‘s case: selling beverages as health care products).







Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

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Women on Top in Tech – Dr. Sanna Gaspard, Founder and CEO of Rubitection



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dr. Sanna Gaspard is the Founder and CEO of Rubitection, a medical device start-up developing a diagnostic tool for early stage pressure detection, assessment, and management. She is an Entrepreneur, inventor, and biomedical engineer with a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, healthcare and medical devices. She has received recognition and awards including being selected as a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards(’13), a semi-finalist for the Big C competition (’14), a finalist for the Mass Challenge Business accelerator in Boston, and taking 1st place at the 3 Rivers Investment Venture Fair’s Technology showcase (‘11). Her vision is to make the Rubitect Assessment System the global standard solution for early bedsore detection and management.

What makes you do what you do? 
I am driven to have impact and improve healthcare as I have a strong drive to problem solve, comes up with new ideas, and see them come to life.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I first focused on getting the educational background and then I pursued the goals I have for myself. I got my PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in medical device development. Having the educational background is important as a woman and minority to assist people in taking your seriously.  After completing my PhD, I focused on bringing my invention for a medical device for early bedsore detection and prevention called the Rubitect Assessment System to market to help save lives and improve care.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I started my startup, Rubitection , because I felt it was the best way to bring the technology to market. I knew that if I did not try to commercialize the technology, it would not make it to the doctors and nurses. I also have confidence that I could manage developing the technology since I had taken classes on entrepreneurship and had my PhD in biomedical engineering with a specialization in medical devices.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
No, I don’t have a specific mentor in my field. I am looking for one at the moment. However, I do look up to Steve Jobs and Oprah as examples of how one can start with nothing and work their way up and build a successful, global, and reputable business and brand.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?  
I first try to find people who have fundamental technical or work experience to be competent to complete the work. I then evaluate the person for intangible skills like independent thinking, reliability, leadership, resilience, organizational skills, strong work ethic, open mindedness/flexibility, and good communication skills.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why? 
I consciously make an effort as a minority woman in tech, I intimately understand the need to promote diversity within my business and outside my business. I first hire the best people for the job and also make a point to hire women and minorities qualified for the position.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?  
It takes resilience, vision, being a team player, an ability to inspire others and delegate work, knowing your weakness, and knowing when to put your business or yourself first.

Advice for others?
My advice to others is to take calculated risks, pursue every opportunity, surround yourself with supporters, build your team with smart dedicated people, and stay focused on your vision. I am striving to implement this advice myself as I work towards commercializing my technology for early bedsore detection, grow my team, and recruit clinical partners to address an $11 billion US healthcare problem which affects millions around the world.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our work or company, please contact us at [email protected].

To learn more about Dr. Sanna Gaspard, CEO of Rubitection visit:

If you’d like to get in touch with Dr. Sanna Gaspard, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Rubitection, please click here.

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