For The Love Of The Game

Marco Ren, famed creator of popdg and microcoffee, lives by a single code: “Never forget how you start and why.”

WDTKFor many of us, surrounding ourselves with a petite collection of a few friends is the most we’ll ever get. The idea of possessing thousands or even millions of contacts seems implausible, and perhaps even pointless. Why would a person need to know so many people and would it really be worth all of the effort? Still, what if you just lived a normal life and people were still furiously attracted to everything you did? Welcome to the life of an internet mogul.

Marco Ren, founder of the eminently successful PopDG and MicroCoffee, did just that. It almost seems like he simply lives and people love him for it.

“As an entrepreneur, I must always have lots of new ideas, but because I want to do everything, I sometimes end up with nothing. So, I now try to focus on one thing at a time. In one year, we’ll work on only one new project. If it becomes stable, we will continue to another. If not, we cut it. This is also the meaning of my motto Bu Wang Chu Xin, or “to never forget what you wanted to do at the beginning.” This is a dream and guidance. It guides us to be calm, not to be distracted by the dynamic outside world,” he said, explaining the driving force behind his actions.

For a guy that seems to turn everything he touches into gold, he’s incredibly soft spoken and modest. People always expect a successful businessman to be bold and existing with a heart made of stone. If that is the real Marco, I struggle to imagine it.
“My impulse for everything I do comes from my desire to travel around the world. I hope to travel one place each year with my team. So, after a few decades, we could have been everywhere in the world. This is actually the purpose of why I started a company,” he mentioned, surprising me of the purity in his desire.

People always expect a successful businessman to be bold and existing with a heart made of stone. If that is the real Marco, I struggle to imagine it.

During his university days around 2006, Marco set up PopDG as a hobby project to explore his interests in Internet and computer technologies. He wanted to learn more about their potential, so he made a BBS forum and started posting.

This pastime progressed quickly and he continued adopting new technologies and methodologies—all in an effort to further his personal knowledge. I had the impression it wasn’t just about money, but more honorably, for curiosity-sake.

“[Today,] I have a bunch of like-minded team members [of which total around 100 people] who I also share both my failures and successes. We are different because we run a project from planning, design, promotion, execution and eventually reach the expected result. We do it all by ourselves. This is very rare in Dongguan,” he told me.

By now, Marco has largely diversified beyond PopDG to include MicroCoffee and a number of other design and media brands. They all float under one parent company called Attitude Media, which may be the largest of its kind if DG.

“PopDG is not the spine of my business, it’s actually only one of the branches. Attitude Media is the spine, and below it are PopDG, Fans network, MicroCoffee, and so on,” he detailed.

The founding of MicroCoffee has an even more interesting story.

“In 2013, when we just moved into [Dongcheng Walking street], we took the second and third floors as the offices, but the first floor was empty. We talked internally and imagined a coffee house for our staff and customers. I talked to a friend involved in the industry and we founded MicroCoffee. This was perhaps destiny. Right now, all works of life are related to Internet. All the development of new products, membership system, promotional activities and online activity are suprisingly done by our technology team. Without them, we couldn’t have opened 70 stores,” he told me, again demonstrating his curiosity first, business second attitude.

Of course, the price of his success is time. He seems to work a lot, with his hands deep into all kinds of the minor details of his businesses, from new innovations to day to day creations. I wondered if he regretted letting the business become such a major part of his life.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I would start another company,” he said, laughing. “Starting a company is something I must do. My family was not rich and poor kids always work hard. Since I was little, I always wanted to change my fate.”

There are many people worth worrying about out there, but Marco definitely isn’t one of them. He should be just fine.