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My name is Michael Michelini and I am business development of the parent company of WrittenChinese, today I will share my Chinese love story, enjoy!
I never knew how long I would live in China. I originally came at the end of 2007 to source products from factories for my e-commerce business. The plan was that I would spend six months or so to build up relationships and an office here and have this operation support things while I was either back in America or traveling / doing business in the next international destination.
Like many, the time has been much longer in China. I have had my good times and bad times here, and there were times I left China and thought I would never come back.
Now having a Chinese wife and a son together, my life in China has totally changed for the better. Let’s take a look and see how this all began.
While in a Startup Incubator in Dalian
In Summer 2012 the startup I was working on, Social Agent was accepted into Chinaccelerator and our team of four flew from Shenzhen up to the Northeastern city of Dalian. Open minded, and full of energy, we were all excited to focus on this startup rather doing it part time while juggling a few Chinese social media consulting projects.
The Social Agent product was a Chinese social media search tool, and as we were preparing for a trip to Beijing as an accelerator class (the trip was called “Geeks on a Train” or GOAT) I wanted to prepare some business development meetings while we were there. So I configured the tool to search for mobile app and tech companies in Beijing and started following and messaging them. It always got their attention, because we would use my personal account (@Michelini on Weibo, as well as Twitter) and send the messages in English. The Chinese social media users would see a foreign face and English message and because not many other foreigners used Sina Weibo I’d stick out and get a huge response rate.
During this marketing campaign, I came across Wendy. She was a business development manager at D.cn, one of the largest Android marketplaces in China and a good person for our startup to know. She was intrigued by my English message and checked out my messages.
She started to laugh and comment on a few of them, and I clearly remember a recent post I had made about which new pair of shoes should I buy, the fake Adidas or the fake Nike – I was in a small shop in the high tech park of Dalian. I always have fun on my social media posts, to get attention and replies and the overall campaign was effective. Wendy agreed to meet when I was in Beijing on the trip and I added her to my business development cooperation lead list.
First Encounter in Beijing
We met in Beijing during the Geeks on a Train trip, and I remember her waiting for me in the hotel lobby before we went to dinner. It was a weekday evening and I had a full day of company tours, I think the Chinaccelerator group had just finished a Baidu visit. I was a bit taken back in awe when I saw her in the lobby and she looked much better in person than I noticed on her Weibo posts (she didn’t post too many photos of herself online). I made sure it was her by messaging her on social media before meeting her, and then it was confirmed so I entered the hotel lobby and greeted her.
We went to Houhai lake and discussed business and life. She had just gotten back from a trip to Tibet, and had a whole bunch of photos on her phone to show me. I was amazed to learn that she traveled there by herself, and not with a group of friends like most people, especially most Chinese women. I could feel the strength and independence in her, and I resonated with it.
She also was a social media and mobile app geek, working in mobile app industry in Beijing for ten years now! She was showing me apps and social media tricks I had never known before. That was an amazing night together.
After Beijing, our accelerator group went down to Shanghai, Wendy introduced me to a bunch of high level business people and investors who I was able to catch during the few days in town. Really helpful and well connected and kind hearted person.
Keeping In Touch Over the Months
After Geeks on a Train trip, I was back in Dalian to grind on the Social Agent startup. We kept in touch via wechat and weibo, and she was really supportive and motivating. She was working with her company in Beijing, D.Cn, since it first opened and knew the hard times an entrepreneur and startup goes through at the early stages.
I had to take trips to Beijing to build relationships with Sina Weibo for its API, as our startup needed access to their data. Therefore I was able to spend more time with Wendy during my time in North China and we got to know each other more.
She Is My Number One Fan
Chinaccelerator had its demo day in Beijing on Halloween, 2012 and all the startups were so nervous. We had all worked so hard for this day, to prepare for our booths and our pitches. This is where Wendy really stepped up, she took the day off work to help out at the booth and was the most hustling rep out of all the booths! She was pulling people to our Social Agent stand and getting name cards and making deals like crazy. I remember a high level executive from App Annie asking me if Wendy was on my startup team. I can’t remember exactly how I answered but I said she was helping out – then he quickly said I am lucky to have her on the team – that he knew her from other events and she is a great team player and well connected.
When I was up on stage to pitch in front of the audience of startups and investors, I could see her in the corner of my eye and she gave me the confidence and strength to take it to the next level.
After demo day, I was fundraising in Beijing a bit but decided to come back to Shenzhen as our startup had roots in Shenzhen and Hong Kong that were hard to uproot. She connected me with more people here and later after each of us traveling back and forth between Beijing and Shenzhen – she convinced her company to let her work down in Shenzhen.
We started living together and bonded even more, like peas in a pod, ha!
Married in Her Hometown
During Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 (October) we took a trip together to Beijing first and then to Shenyang, her hometown for the October holiday. I remember being nervous to meet the family for the first time, especially as a foreigner. She kept telling me not to worry, but isn’t that what all girlfriends/boyfriends say to their counterpart before meeting the parents? 🙂
It was really a lot of fun, the family embraced me as one of theirs and during our 1 week trip there we got married. We still had a proper wedding party down in Shenzhen a few months later, but we had no idea it would be so easy to have a cross-border marriage and could get it done in about two business days – so we finished it all during the trip.
Love Comes When You’re Least Looking
I definitely wasn’t looking for love when I found it. I was in the first month of a three month startup accelerator program and was “heads down” in work trying to build a startup and get funding. But there is that saying that love finds you when you are least looking, and that was definitely my case. Now I’ve been married a year and a half, have a son together, and my life couldn’t be better. I worried it would slow down my focus on work, but it has done the opposite – I am more focused on work than ever before, more structured in my time and schedule and really at the top of my career.
My startup Social Agent has since joined the family of apps alongside Written Chinese here and I am so excited for the future of this business. So I hope this inspires all of you to embrace life, keep an open mind, and don’t force things to happen. They will happen when the timing is right.
If you’d like to follow my personal story, I keep a personal blog at Mike’s blog and post a few times a month or so on family and my startup experiences.
If you’d like to tell your story about living in China or studying Chinese, please contact us on our User Spotlight page!