Crocodile in the Yangtze

I went along to see a screening of a new documentary called Crocodile in the Yangtze last night and it was excellent — if you get a chance, it’s well worth a watch.

The film was made by Porter Erisman who we met after the screening. It’s pieced together from ten years of footage from all kinds of places to tell the story of his time as a senior executive of Chinese tech company Alibaba. It follows the firm from the moment they left the founder’s apartment through to their IPO in 2010.

The main character in the film is Alibaba founder and former English teacher Jack Ma who comes across as a thoroughly decent and smart man, coping with the drama of startup life and eventually leading a company of 16,000 employees and tens of millions of users very well. He’s certainly up there with some of the leaders of better known US startups.

The film all tallies with what we found when we visited China earlier this year to learn about startups and investors there (Anna’s written about it here). The story of Chinese startups just being copy-cats and somehow suppressed by the political system just didn’t seem to be true. As Porter said at the screening last night — there are more similarities than differences between US and Chinese startups in the early days.

Anyway, it’s a much more interesting startup movie than the Social Network. If you’d like to organise a screening near you, drop me an email and I can put you in touch with Porter.
Related articles