Cindy Mi, Founder & CEO of VIPKID

Originally posted by Vincent Dong on May 27, 2019

Please allow me to introduce Cindy Mi, the founder and CEO of VIPKID. 

VIPKID is one of the largest online English tutoring companies in China, which is valued at more than $3.5 billion. It matches over 60,000 teachers in the US and Canada with over 500,000 Chinese students for one-on-one online English learning. On the list of 2018 World’s Most Innovative Companies, VIPKID ranked 29th worldwide, and the 2nd right after Tencent (the Chinese Internet giant) in China. 

With bad learning experience with her Math lessons, Cindy encountered lots of difficulties with the school. She dropped out in 11th grade, and started the first business with her uncle at the age of 17. They created a brick-and-mortar English-training business, where Cindy worked as a co-founder and an English teacher. This experience allowed Cindy to lead business development across China, which gave her the “street smart.” Then Cindy studied for the “book smart” and obtained an MBA degree from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) in 2012. This business school gives strong support to entrepreneurs and encourages students to start their own businesses. 

During the period, Cindy found that anxious Chinese parents approximately spend $15 billion a year on children’s English-language learning. There are 18 million new babies born every year and a million elementary school kids in China. However, as a comparison, the residing qualified foreign English teachers are only 27,000. There is obviously an imaginable huge gap between demand and supply. In response to this finding, Cindy started her second business after graduation and founded VIPKID in 2013.

If you are interested in the background, skills and motivation behind the story of entrepreneurship, you can find more details from this interview video.

( Average Rating: 4.5 )

2 responses to “Cindy Mi, Founder & CEO of VIPKID”

  1. Jessica Daicos

    While reading this post, I was curious how Mi developed the proficiency to roll right into her first English language business at 17 (with her uncle). Apparently, she taught herself English as a child and used her lunch money to buy English magazines and audio cassette tapes. She was so proficient by the age of 15 that she began tutoring students in English. Very cool. I actually watched the entire 33 minute video posted above and am impressed how VIPKid has created a competitive edge in a crowded industry by investing in quality teachers and building a community around them. I am also moved by her long-term mission, which uses the expansion of VIPKid to use this global classroom to build global citizens, not just wealth for the company:

    Speaking with Business Insider, Mi talked at length about how the worldly perspective she says she gained from studying for her MBA at Johnson Cornell in the US was accessible to only a select — primarily wealthy — few. “We always talk about how diplomats’ kids understand the world in a very different way,” Mi said. “They’re able to connect with everyone when they grow up. But what if we have kids everywhere be ambassadors of their own cultures, learn about other cultures, and become ambassadors for other cultures?”


    ( 2 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
  2. Feng Mao

    Thanks for sharing this post Jessica. Having lived in China for the past four years, I have seen VIPKID ads everywhere, including in the subway, in elevators, on the TV, and in physical brochures. There seems to be many parents in China with young children who trust VIPKID. In Asia, being able to speak English is a bonus for future career prospects since the dense population with comparatively limited opportunities requires something special to make a person stand out. With this in mind, many parents invest significant money and time for their children to learn English from a young age (as early as three years old). Cindy Mi has well-informed view of the Chinese market, including focusing on North American English given preferences over British English by hiring teachers from the North American market. In my personal experience on social media groups with other Ontario-certified teachers, I have seen that there are a notable number of teachers who work with VIPKID for some extra cash. It’s a win-win situation since teachers can earn some extra income while providing opportunities for Chinese kids to learn English from a native speaker from a young age.

    It seems venture ideas don’t need to be large in scope but as long as the idea can solve a problem and can benefit a large group of people then the conditions already favour business survival and growth.

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