The Influencers

Jing Zhou

11. Jing Zhou_magazine_shot copy

Jing Zhou, 31, is a reporter by trade, but it’s her entrepreneurial instincts that are writing her life’s work as of late. Using the cultural perspective she has gained from living in the urban settings of China and the United States, Jing has built a comprehensive and lucrative career within startup companies ranging from mobile advertising to social media apps. Jing’s most recent venture is called Elemoon. Founded by Jing in 2013, Elemoon is luxury wearable technology that works in concert with user’s smart phones to feature health, creativity and elegance.

Your degrees from Nanjing University and from Northwestern University suggest your distinct interest in communication. In what ways has your career abided by or veered from this initial interest?

Everything is about communication. Every problem can be solved through communication. To me, the essence of journalism, fashion and technology is the same. It’s storytelling. It’s building a community for the like-minded. When I was working with our engineers on the bluetooth protocol of the Eelemoon bracelet, I reconfirmed my theory. Humans build machines to act like humans. It boils down to what messages you want to send out and what results you want to achieve through communicating. So I’m very glad that I studied people and communication before I got into technology. Technology is just a tool.

What types of skills from your past as a reporter have been transferrable to your career as an entrepreneur?

I worked as an investigative reporter in New York for uncovering the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008. The biggest criminals on Wall Street then reflected on the nature of investment. It should be about good people with good products. Simple as that. But it’s a trillion dollar lesson. That gave me a lot of confidence to be an entrepreneur. I love working with extremely talented people to create great products. As a reporter, you need to be able to identify problems and opportunities quickly and learn things fast. My challenge then was to navigate a new country, the U.S., writing in a second language about something that the local audience would care about. My challenge now is not just identifying problems and opportunities, but also creating the solution and product.

In the last five years you have spearheaded projects in advertising, app development and wearable technology. How do these areas combine to reflect who you are as
a professional?

When I did mobile advertising. Our clients wanted female consumer data. I learned that women are the majority buyers of products, including digital products. But very few tech products are built for women. After we sold the ad company, I started making a mobile app for young women in China to better communicate and gift each other. Women loved the app but they wanted something more. They wanted us to marry the app with a consumer product, a plush toy, something more tactile. So we decided to get into wearable tech. We want to use technology to empower women and creativity. Technology is an enhancer. It makes fun things more fun, beautiful things more beautiful.

Describe the biggest challenge you faced in making the intangible idea for Elemoon a wearable reality.

I didn’t know making hardware would be 100 times harder than software! In the last two years, I’ve been living out of a suitcase, traveling back and forth between the U.S. and China. Since we were the first one to marry high-end electronics and fine jewelry on a mass production scale, we ran into all kinds of new problems for design, development and manufacturing. I personally worked directly with seven factories day and night to get things done. I had to learn not just software, but also industrial design, hardware, manufacturing management. It broke me down many times. But it made me stronger and more patient.

Working in a startup culture, what have you found to be the most helpful practices or approaches in your work?

To have fun with your work and your people, no matter how hard the situation is.

What are your best habits for market trend- watching as it pertains to Elemoon and your future endeavors?

The future of wearable is incredibly multi-disciplinary. We need top creative people (designers, architects, artists), and top engineers and scientists to make magic. We are marrying a  seventy-billion dollar market (wearable) with an even bigger market, the three hundred and five billion dollar
jewelry market.

Who are the women who inspire you most?

I grew up in a communist country, where gender equality was enforced. When I was in my first grade, I learned from my textbooks about the first Chinese female physicist, pilot, and adventurer to the South Pole. And thanks to my journalist father, I got to visit many of them at their homes. I’ve been deeply inspired by them.

Text by Kyle Thornburg
Photograph by Francisco Arechiga