China First Capital has a new website. Actually two, Chinese and English. Please have a look.
Putting together the new text for the website, in two languages that share little in common in terms of grammar, word order and the logic with which ideas are expressed, was an enjoyable and intricate challenge, both for the China First Capital team. It also functioned as a kind of stay-at-home corporate retreat across two weekends, time outside of the office thinking rather deeply about what actually takes place there every day. "We don’t gravitate away from our nucleus of activity," confirms China First Capital chairman and founder Peter Fuhrman,“we actively assist the fundraising activities of China’s private companies, state-owned enterprises and financial sponsors.We are equally active in M&A, domestic as well as cross border transactions both inbound and outbound.”
The two websites look similar, but aren’t mirror images. The Chinese website is not a translation. It actually has more content, more pages, more pictures, more description. The reason is, the Chinese website is mainly aimed at China First Capital's core client base, domestic Chinese entrepreneurs and the senior management of State Owned Enterprises. Investment banking, private equity, capital markets all have rather shallow roots in China. Twenty-five years ago, none of these things existed in any practical sense in China. So, part of the Chinese website’s purpose is to place China First Capital's activities in a broader context of explaining how companies get funded, both by institutional investors like private equity firms and by stock markets, and how and why they can accelerate growth through acquisitions.
Company websites in China are also a rather new phenomenon. Five years ago, when China First Capital (chinafirstcapital.com) was founded as a specialist American-owned investment bank in China, few domestic private Chinese companies or PE firms had a corporate website. Today, more do. They function mainly as a kind of online business card. The usual style is to include a rather bland letter from the chairman, drab photos of the different wall plaques awarded by government agencies, and a button that says “English”, that if clicked on, often leads to a blank page or, in some cases, to a site whose content bears no relationship to the Chinese company’s.
It’s rare to meet a Chinese company boss who spends much time online, let alone uses web search to locate potential business partners or opportunities. But, this too is starting to change. Recently, the CFO of one of China’s largest domestic cookie and cracker companies sent an email to China First Capital's main email address saying he’d learned about the company through the website, and wanted to discuss retaining China First Capital to raise capital. Within the space of a few weeks, China First Capital was able to lock in the investment banking mandate. One nice perk: lots of free snacks, salty and sweet, to nibble on in the office.
Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Chinese will quickly see that the English website homepage says China First Capital has four main business areas, while the Chinese site lists only three. A sign of strategic or linguistic confusion? Not according to China First Capital chairman Peter Fuhrman. "We’ve been spending quite a lot of time recently building up China First Capital’s research and database on current private equity investments that may be suitable for exit through a secondary transaction, the kind of deal where one private equity sells its investment to another. We’ve done deal work in this area of secondaries and expect to focus far more on such transactions in the future. The English-language site seems a more suitable place to mention this activity. To my knowledge, there isn’t a recognized Chinese word for “secondaries”, nor will such deals be of much practical interest to domestic entrepreneurs."