Here we go with another one of our interviews with foreign entrepreneurs developing online based products in China. This time we spoke with Frank Quosdorf, Chairman
and co-founder of Totuba, a global education marketplace and community.
1. Hi Frank, could you briefly introduce yourself and your company?
I am German, born in Saxony, married, with one child. For more than five years, my wife and I have been living in various countries working with multi-cultural teams. Totuba is an education company targeting major education stakeholders: learners, teachers, education service providers, related bodies, experts, and innovators. Our business is a global education marketplace and community, incorporating useful tools that make knowledge activities easier for people, provide a hub for affiliate connections, foster education innovation, and provide inputs to increased education program quality. Totuba is headquartered in Shanghai, China with a multicultural mix of employees and partners.
2. What is your China story? What brought you here?
Totuba was founded by Suren Gunatillake (Chief Executive Officer), Managing Director of Shangcorp, a project management company in Shanghai and me. In 2002 and 2003, I was implementing a large-scale e-Commerce platform for Bertelsmann in New York. Having Chinese colleagues and friends there, I got interested in both Chinese culture and business opportunities in China. In 2004, together with my wife, I relocated from Berlin to Shanghai to actively take part in China's development. Suren arrived in Shanghai in 2003, sponsored by an Australian entrepreneurial fellowship. He established an IT consulting company in Shanghai, moving Shangcorp from IT services toward media consulting and production, serving multi-nationals as well as SMEs. As Shanghai is becoming a global hub for media and education as well as a cosmopolitan city offering similar lifestyles to New York, Sydney or Berlin, we both are fully committed to China as a business hub, and to Shanghai as our place of choice to live.
3. Now speaking of Totuba - are you planning to develop this product for the Chinese market only or do you more or less just want to benefit from the local cost structure to keep the development costs reasonable?
Totuba is all about connecting education stakeholders on a global scale. Certainly there will be localized versions of Totuba, but we consider ourselves a Global Knowledge Market. Totuba is currently running a production facility in Shanghai, but this is less about saving costs than having very creative and highly committed staff that can implement our business ideas in extremely short time. It is also about being headquartered in one of the fastest and most exciting business environments in the world.
4. What experiences can you share with us and our readers concerning the differences in the e-learning behaviour of Chinese and European users? What is unique about the Chinese user?
There are many e-Learning initiatives and projects in Europe, and the European commission (Directorate-General for Education and Culture) is doing a great job unifying the many different European education systems. This political struggle, however, sometimes prevents European schools from really being innovative across borders. The Chinese government is attracting education experts from all over the world, making Shanghai a great place for education innovation. Since Chinese are, other than most Europeans, very open to changes and adaptation, their learners have been using latest technologies in e-Learning and distance learning very successfully, and for quite some time. One of Totuba's corporate goals is to help bridge the gap between Chinese and European educators and learners by connecting them through our global education network.
5. How do you assess the Chinese market and what can we expect from Totuba in 2008?
In recent years, the Chinese government has been advancing both its domestic and international education policies. As a result, the Chinese education market is rapidly growing, and Chinese students are studying abroad in increasing numbers. With such exciting potential for growth, Totuba will provide connection and interaction for key Chinese and foreign education stakeholders on our global platform. We recently launched our knowledge capturing, management and sharing product to key users and will be doing a larger public release over the coming months. 2008 is the Chinese year of the rat. In China, the rat is seen as a very smart, diligent and hard-working animal. Our team is fully dedicated to reaching this year's goal to successfully launch our global education marketplace which learners will be able to utilise for discovering, rating, reviewing, and purchasing both online and offline education products and services - domestically and globally.
About Frank Quosdorf
Frank Quosdorf is former Chief Information Officer with Bertelsmann China and has more than ten years management experience and more than twenty years professional experience in various industries and roles and can be characterized as a seasoned e-Commerce specialist.