Internet & Tech

The bucket list

Charity challenge highlights tycoons’ connections

Ice Bucket w

Gou gets wet for a good cause

No one knows the identity of “challenger zero” – the first person to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and then demand that three others do the same thing. But awareness of the Ice Bucket Challenge really took off in early August when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg drenched himself and then challenged Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Reed Hastings to suffer the same. They were doing so to raise publicity and cash for a foundation countering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The condition is fatal.

As everyone now knows, the challenge involves videoing yourself dumping a bucket of ice over your head and then daring three others to do the same within the next 24 hours. A failure to respond means making a donation to the ALS charity, although plenty of people who take the challenge have also been donating.

The craze has taken off in China too, where the campaign went high- profile after the involvement of internet tycoons. Nearly all the leading names from the sector have been named and challenged. Robin Li, chairman of search engine giant Baidu, and Lei Jun, founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi, have done it. Even Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s long-time associate Solina Chau got wet. Chau accepted the challenge from Noam Bardin, CEO of navigation app Waze. The 52 year-old then tagged Josh Tetrick from artificial egg maker Hampton Creek and Adam Cheyer, founder of artificial intelligence developer Viv Labs. Li’s charity foundation, which Chau directs, has invested in all of these promising start-ups.

The Economic Observer reckons some Chinese tycoons have even been using the challenge to demonstrate the ‘connectedness’ of their corporate and social networks. “If a businessman hasn’t been challenged yet it means he isn’t high enough up the industry pyramid, or he isn’t sociable enough,” the newspaper suggests.

Xiaomi’s Lei was among the first IT geeks to get a dunking. He was challenged by one of Xiaomi’s angel investors, the DST Global founder Yuri Milner (who in turned was tagged by Melinda Gates). Lei extended the chain by throwing down the gauntlet to movie star Andy Lau, Baidu’s Li, as well as Terry Gou of Foxconn (the company that makes Xiaomi gadgets, see WiC247 for more). Gou – something of an unlikely participant, due to his gruff reputation – went on to challenge Taiwan actress Lin Chi-ling and Masayoshi Son of Japan’s Softbank (for which Foxconn is now making robots)

Alibaba’s Jack Ma is yet to feel the ice bucket but has already attracted a fair share of challenges. One came from movie celebrity Li Bingbing. Another was from Youku’s chairman Victor Koo, who challenged Ma, Yang Weidong of Tudou (a rival firm that Youku merged with in 2012) and Wang Changtian of Enlight Media, a fast-growing filmmaking and TV production company.

“Most internet tycoons founded their businesses from scratch because they are experts in building personal networks. The ice bucket challenge teaches us not to ignore any chance to ‘get looped’. A coffee, a weibo post or even an ice bucket challenge all allow you to express yourself to investors and business partners,” internet news website Lieyunwang.com has suggested.

Of course, it was too much to expect that China’s most controversial philanthropist wouldn’t put himself forward. Chen Guangbiao (see WiC243 for a recent mention) did his best to upstage the rest by submerging himself in icy water for 30 minutes. In the video chronicling his efforts, Chen dons red underwear and is sandwiched between two large slabs of ice split apart by a sledgehammer. He promises to donate Rmb1 million ($162,600) to charity for every person who can break his ‘record’.


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