THE past nine years have been the most fulfilling and fruitful period for a young Chinese couple — Liu Chuang and Ye Yutong. From two strangers embarking on a new university life in 2011, they became friends, ventured into the business world together, and then got married. Now, parents of two children, Liu and Ye are still balancing well their various hats of responsibility in life. Their tech start-up focusing on facial recognition technology has survived the hit of the COVID-19 epidemic and grown more resilient as a result. Liu is about to finish his doctorate degree program at the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU) in Xi’an, capital city of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.
Liu Chuang and Ye Yutong (center, back row) attending the 2019 spring launching ceremony of Glasssix with other innovators.
Starting from Pets’ Face Recognition
Back in 2014, Liu and Ye, who were juniors at NWPU, registered a company named “Glasssix.” It was so named because each of the three founders wore glasses and they felt the name had a touch of technology.
The business idea came from a competition they had taken part in. Liu’s competition team was working on a project about locating lost pets by utilizing a computer vision system to recognize their faces. One of the judges said to them, “Why don’t you try facial recognition?” These words inspired Liu and other founders of Glasssix so much that they decided facial recognition development and application would be their main line of business in the future.
Both Liu and Ye were ambitious even before they entered university. Liu told himself to extensively participate in campus activities, and Ye was determined to do something bigger than just retailing business on Taobao, a popular online shopping platform in China, which she had started when she was a high school student.
Two “restless” souls finally rendezvoused at a campus activity. “I was the only girl in the start-up, and everyone treated me like a boy,” Ye said. “Liu Chuang has been a good buddy of mine.”
During those years, Liu, Ye, and other members of their team could be seen at various campus activities. Every member had their own area of expertise. Liu Chuang was a painter, so he designed every piece of advertisement and sign board. Ye was the one who made and carried out business plans. As for the rest of the team members, they were all tech gurus. They were proficient in programming and using software of PS, AI, and AE. Over the following years, these young kindred spirits learned to work as a team and fostered long-lasting friendships.
“Thanks to our academic adviser’s help and a supportive environment provided by our school, we found the courage to give a try,” Liu said. As students, he and his team took part in almost every entrepreneurship competition and won awards one after another. The college students’ entrepreneurship base funded by the NWPU offered them initial funding and a business venue.
Supportive Business Partners
Liu has been the cohesive force in the start-up team since its beginning. “He can always unite us whenever we have disagreements,” Ye said. She discovered that Liu was able to stay calm and listen to others under any circumstance. “He then makes his decision after listening to other people’s points. We all accept his decisions,” Ye said. It was no surprise to anyone that Liu Chuang became the chief executive officer of Glasssix.
Despite the fact that Liu is the talented CEO, Ye has been the “engine” of the team. “During the initial discussion about an issue, I perhaps may not agree with an idea, but I faithfully uphold it once it becomes a team decision,” said Ye, who is the chief operation officer of Glasssix.
In Ye’s eyes, Liu Chuang is a calm, moderate and magnanimous gentleman. “We need him on our team. With him onboard, our business can sail steadily and far,” said Ye. To Liu, Ye is vigorous and resolute, and always carries things through. “She pushes us forward. She knows business and is good at dealing with various people,” Liu said.
When the two became a team, they are invincible. Six years after they first met, they elevated their friendship to a relationship. They got married and also welcomed the heyday of their business. Within three years, they became parents of two girls, and secured the financing and substantial orders of their business.
During the first few years of their business adventure, Liu and Ye spent most of their time doing market research and dealing with business partners. Often they became so absorbed in their work that they even forgot to eat meals. Sometimes when they were really exhausted, they parked their car on the side of the road and took a nap in it.
The business made no profits in the beginning, but the couple were able to manage the monthly payments of employees, which usually amounted to RMB 10,000 for each computer engineer. While making some money from orders of graphic designing and wedding services, members of the founding team cut their own payments. “We never thought of giving up no matter how hard it was,” Liu said. “This is what we want to do. We will make it, no matter how hard it is.”
A crushing blow came when the company secured a second round of financing. “On the surface, everything was getting better, until we launched our core product. Then we found that the market didn’t respond positively,” Liu said. “To make matters worse, there was the ensuing crisis of confidence,” he added, recalling that the technical team and the marketing team blamed each other for the failure. “Ultimately, everybody questioned the leadership.”
In the face of crisis, Liu and the management reflected on their own problems. The company even hired a professional manager at high expenses to help tackle the crisis. But it proved that only the founding team knew Glasssix the best. After thorough self-evaluation and positioning, the founding team managed to restore their confidence in the company. Glasssix unveiled a brand new “infrared eye IV” – a facial recognition device at a global launching ceremony.
Liu and Ye believe the saying, “You reap what you sow.” Starting from scratch in a humble basement room, Glasssix has grown into an up-and-coming tech firm headquartered in a metropolis business center. Its products and sales services are now available in 63 cities across the world. Both Liu and Ye made Forbes China 30 Under 30 list in 2019 for their outstanding achievements in the field of business.
Liu and Ye believe that the core competitiveness of their company lies in its hardcore technology, and that central to the corporate culture is trust. “No matter how hard it is, we stay firm to our goals and keep trusting each other,” Liu said. Glasssix is now negotiating for the Series B financing.
Liu Chuang’s aspiration is that Glasssix grows into a useful company for society, and that everyone who joins Glasssix can achieve self-fulfillment. Ye Yutong believes in living each day to the fullest. “We strive for excellence in everything and make every minute meaningful,” Ye said.
Their common aspiration is to change life in the future with Glasssix by making tech services a normal part of people’s daily lives. “We also hope our daughters grow up happily and be brave to pursue whatever they aspire for,” Ye said.
SUN HAIHUA is a reporter with China Youth Daily.