Inspiring insights from a serial entrepreneur
With a background in engineering, an Executive Master’s in Consulting & Coaching for Change from HEC Paris and Said Business School, and a dream to make positive change in the world, Charles Bark is making waves in tech and healthcare. We talked to the Shanghai-based Founder/CEO of ChinPass and HiNounou about what he's learned as a business leader, change-maker and mentor.
LIVE YOUR DREAM
For Charles, the most important lesson he has learnt in his career to date is, to "live your dream”. He adds that for educated people, the dream is not necessarily a monetary one – but rather converting our education into meaningful action to make the world a better place. In his case, this prompted the creation of HiNounou, an AI companion that provides healthcare to people over 65, which is helping the 120 million elderly people living alone in China to connect with their families, improve their health and to give them the autonomy to live happier and longer.
RECOGNIZE BASIC NEEDS
That said, to realize these dreams, you need a viable business plan. For Charles, the key to building a business case was understanding the specific needs and expectations of his target audience. For example, the idea for ChinPass, an integrative Chinese-learning system, came when he took a Mandarin course before moving to Shanghai in 2006. “I realized it had not succeeded,” he jokes, “because they didn’t teach me to say, ‘where are the toilets?’ Entrepreneurs have to understand their customer's basic needs, which in this particular case were speaking and understanding.”
He came to the conclusion that textbook-focused language classes often fall short of meeting our basic needs. Why not focus on words and phrases applicable to everyday life? And so ChinPass was born.
UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL CONTEXTS
In the Chinese market, understanding cultural contexts is crucial.
“Beyond the language, the most important thing to understand is the culture. You need to see China without Western preconceptions.” - Charles Bark, Founder and CEO of HiNounou and ChinPass.
He highlights how China is often presented as either a get-rich-quick hub or a violator of human rights. “So my advice would be, abandon this type of prejudice – think globally, but act locally."
INNOVATE AND TAKE RISKS
In addition to knowing your local market, Charles emphasizes the importance of innovation. In HiNounou's case, “yesterday's 'impossible' – insuring the elderly – is possible today with our AI healthcare algorithm that predicts the risk of chronic diseases in elderly people.” But as with all successful innovation, as an entrepreneur, a driver of disruptive innovation and an outsider, there are a number of associated risks.
Adopting a change management approach is one way to minimize risk. As a graduate and mentor for the HEC Paris Consulting & Coaching for Change program, the award-winning entrepreneur has learned that change is all about emotion. “If I need to coach you in a change that you need to carry out personally or in your business, it’s not about teaching you some skills...it’s about triggering the right emotions that will give you the necessary awareness to move forward.”
“If we move one step beyond triggering emotion, it’s all about the network,” says Charles. In his ambition of helping the elderly live longer, happier and healthier lives, he emphasizes the importance his strong network of HEC Paris and Oxford alumni, some of whom sit on his company HiNounou’s board. “The moto of HEC Paris is ‘the more you know, the more you dare.' And I will add the more you dare, the more you know and the better you can engage your network.”
Based on an interview with Charles Bark, Founder and CEO of HiNounou and ChinPass and graduate of the HEC Paris Executive Master in Consulting & Coaching for Change.