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UPDATED: October 30, 2014 NO. 20 MAY 17, 2012
Mass Producing Charity
A venture capital investor uses his business savvy to maximize the impact of his philanthropic work
By Li Li

LIFE SUPPORTER: Wang Bing, founder of Ai You Foundation, visits 2-year-old Shi Shuangming on June 1, 2011, in a hospital where the boy received surgery for treating congenital heart disease sponsored by Ai You (COURTESY OF AIYOU HUAXIA)

Wang Bing is a man with plans. When he became one of China's first generation of securities brokers after graduating from college in the early 1990s, he decided to spend the next 12 years making enough money so that he wouldn't have financial worries for the rest of his life. Then he had even bigger plans: Spending the next 15 years on charity work and the following 15 years pursuing personal hobbies.

Wang's three-phase life plan has been soundly implemented so far. He set up his own company engaged in venture capital and private equity investment in 2000. The company has successfully invested in Sina, Tencent, Alibaba and Focus Media, and these companies have grown to become China's leading Internet companies. Wang told the China Entrepreneur magazine that he has the acumen to tell a good company from a bad one. Wang's company still holds Sina stocks purchased at HK$30 ($3.86) per share 10 years ago, which are now valued at HK$200 ($25.76) per share.

Excellent returns from Wang's investment has given the self-made multi-millionaire the financial freedom he long dreamed of as well as the confidence to put his business savvy to use furthering good causes.

In 2004, at the age of 36, Wang established the Ai You Foundation in Beijing to provide better medical care for needy children from disadvantaged families. The foundation embarked on its first mission to sponsor surgeries and rehabilitate children with congenital heart diseases in 2006.

Congenital heart disease is a defect in the structure of the heart and major blood vessels, which is present at birth. Many types of heart defects exist, most of which either obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels near it, or cause blood to flow through the heart in an abnormal pattern. They could result in premature deaths often before the affected children turn 3.

More than 300,000 children are born each year with congenital heart diseases on the Chinese mainland. However, not all of them have access to medical treatment. Most of China's medical institutions that are able to perform surgery treating congenital heart diseases are located in large cities. A large number of sick children born to underprivileged rural families miss the best time for treatment.

Congenital heart diseases have caused great suffering for a large number of families in China. However, that was not the only reason Wang chose to initially support this particular group of children. His second motivation was the fact that his action plan could be replicated.

Shortly after establishing his foundation, Wang decided on three criteria of how to select charitable causes to focus on: Every case must be replicable, relatively low in overheads and have measureable effects. Ai You once considered aiding children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and the treatment of deaf children, which were both given up due to the vast differences between cases.

When the Ministry of Civil Affairs approached Wang with a program to aid children with congenital heart diseases, he realized this was exactly what his team had been looking for. Surgeries to treat congenital heart diseases are well-established, which means most children can be cured and the cost of each case tends to be broadly similar.

Ai You has signed contracts with 36 medical institutions around China, which are entrusted with conducting surgeries on children supported by the foundation as well as receiving applications for financial aid from their patients. The contracts between Wang's foundation and medical institutions clearly define the rights and responsibilities of both parties and the standards on selecting applicants. "The contract is a commercial one serving charitable purposes," Wang said.

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