For 25-year-old Lei Min, the spread of the Internet in China was more than just a new form of entertainment. It was a window into an infinite world of information.
Three years ago, Min was an undergrad at Tsinghua University in Beijing, aspiring to be a consultant or a marketer. She watched as the Internet spread in China, and soon she was enamored of it. She remembers spending 70 hours straight surfing online (she ordered takeout) while her friends were playing games or watching movies – just because she was so consumed and delighted by all the new information available. “I love the Internet. … I love these Internet companies,” she says, citing Twitter and other apps. “I think I have some talent in information…. I’m very curious.”
Min eagerly saw mobile phones with Internet begin to take hold, as well, after the iPhone entered China. Tens of millions have been sold, and Min is no longer interested in consulting. Now, she’s doing a master’s degree in software engineering at Tsinghua.
She is always the first one to know things at school and spread the information to her friends, and she saw a new opportunity to bring her knowledge online.
“I think it’s revolutionary…. It’s a big chance,” Min said, sporting a red checkered shirt and glasses when I talked with her in Beijing. Rather than tacking up posters on campus, she says, students should have one place to get all their news about events and activities, job listings, lectures, and items for sale.
What started out as a fun digital newspaper has now grown into a business called Infobox, with a team of 12. They launched a website in February, and apps in May.
“I want to make this product bigger. I want to change the [way] that people get information,” Min told me. Hearing how she discovered the Internet reminded me how powerful it is, creating new careers and new culture and new dreams for girls in China.