As early as 1993, you have started your business. Can you tell us something about what ZWSOFT was like at the very beginning?
In 1990, when I was about to graduate from college, a few of my classmates and I worked on our graduation project. The project was a secondary development based on CAD software, more specifically the interior design software for Taiwanese clients. This was the beginning of us being an actual part of this industry. After graduation, I wanted to start my own business, so with what I had learned from the graduation project I chose to focus on interior design software and managed to become one of the top three in this field in China.
Figure 1. ZWSOFT as interior design software at the very beginning.
You described the mindset at that time as “the beginner’s mind”. Has that changed now?
People who started their businesses in 1992 and 1993 were generally born in ordinary families in small towns without any particular backgrounds. What they simply wanted was to create a better life with their own hands for themselves, their families, and people around them. This is the “the beginner’s mind”. Until now, this original intention has not changed – I still want to do things better and make people’s life better. After so many years of development, I believe that everyone in ZWSOFT is this kind of person.
There is also another interpretation of the concept “the beginner’s mind”. As the Chinese idiom says, “Newborn calves are not afraid of tigers”, we are courageous and fearless. Looking back to the 20 years that ZWSOFT had gone through, every time we tried out new things and went into new fields, everything was unfamiliar and difficult. For example, from the secondary development software for interior design to the general 2D CAD platform, which is ZWCAD now, it was an absolute breakthrough; from 2D CAD to 3D CAD, it was without hesitation also. Same goes for the CAE that we are working on right now. We have the gut to keep exploring and making progress, because not going forward means going backward. We distinguish ourselves by always evolving.
Figure 2. ZWCAD was born as a 2D CAD platform.
You mentioned “evolve” just now, and I remembered that you also compared the next 20 years as an endless evolution. It sounds a little bit abstract, can you further explain that?
Evolution is not something mysterious. Anyone, any team, and any company are all evolving. The difference is that some are eliminated during this process, while others survive and grow stronger and stronger step by step. What I want to say is that we should always have a sense of urgency. The question that I think a lot is whether we will be washed out after three years, since we are in a fully competitive environment where everyone is working hard. However, the cruel thing is that hard work does not necessarily mean survival; instead, both hard work and right direction are indispensable. The fittest survive; we need to be constantly sensitive to the changes, judging accordingly in advance, and taking action. This is evolution from my perspective.
The most difficult part of it is to leave your comfort zone. What you are proud of and what you believe to be your advantages may very possibly be the next obstacle you face. Dinosaurs were big, but they were the first to die. That’s why no matter there are 5, 50, 500, or 5,000 people, I will always keep thinking about how we can be the fittest one to survive.
In the past 20 years, is there anything that made you happy? Can you share with us?
What really makes people feel good may not be countless money or successful business. Instead, the ultimate goal of doing business should be paying back to the society and making people’s life better. There are two things that make me very happy. The first is that we helped build two primary schools, one in Meizhou, Guangdong, and the other one in Hong’an, Hubei. I still remember that we took a lot of photos with the children on the day the teaching building was completed, and they laughed happily when receiving the stationery and books. Education is very important, and that’s also why we made the decision to develop the education version 3D One more than a decade ago. Now, about 1,500 vocational schools and 20,000 middle and primary schools are using it. I am proud that ZWSOFT has made some differences to China’s education.
Figure 3. The hope primary school ZWSOFT helped build in Hong’an, Hubei.
I also feel happy that my son has gone to college. It touched me a lot. I just feel like that I have graduated as well (laugh). The joy of growing together with a child is beyond description. In the future, he needs to face the world more independently, and I can be more devoted to the things I like.
Then, when did you feel most stressed?
Talking about difficulties… the two transformations I have mentioned earlier are impressive to me. The first one was from interior design software to general CAD platform. I think that we had an “inertia” at that time – we were used to targeting at a specific group of customers and a specific industry, and didn’t have enough experience to develop a CAD platform. In that period of three to four years we invested a huge yet only received a little. The pressure was overwhelming. The second one was from 2D to 3D in 2010 with the purchase of VX Corporation in America. Everything was new to us, requiring a long time to figure out and a lot of efforts to input. The pressure was never-felt-before at that time since I needed to be responsible for hundreds of families. So we had to do it well without going back.
Figure 4. ZW3D was developed after the combination of ZWSOFT and VX Corporation.
So, how did you overcome them?
I think the key point was that we always want to do things bigger and better instead of sticking in the mud. I am never a conservative person. When I think that we are in a state when everything is right, I will, on the contrary, have a strong sense of insecurity. Why? Because if we don’t make some differences and jump out of the comfort zone, we will not be able to keep moving forward, or evolving as was mentioned.
We won the first “war” because we firmly believed that we had identified the trend, so we just continued working hard on it and let time decide the rest. As for the second challenge, I relied on a belief to overcome it — if we treat the world honestly and keep our feet on the ground to do good things, our luck will never be too bad. So we communicated more actively, solving problems more sincerely, and thus all the problems were resolved gradually. In 2016, everything went back to the right track, and our hard work and accumulations paid off.
You could review other parts of this series here!
Part 4: Cooperation > Competition