Young Entrepreneurs Series | Shen Congle: Journalist, Data Analyst, Leader

Shen Congle
Mar 1 2019

NYU Shanghai’s “Young Entrepreneurs” series kicked off on February 27, with a talk by Shen Congle, the Editor in Chief of The Rising Lab, a project from the Yicai Media Group that uses journalism and Big Data to rank the business and development potential of China’s urban centers. In 2018, Shen was named to the Forbes’ China 30 Under 30 list for her work in tracking the development of Chinese cities through The Rising Lab.

Shen, 29 and a graduate of Fudan University, spoke to students about her success in combining her interest in big data with journalism, and how she was able to build the “business case” for continuing her work on cities.

Shen and her team collect data from e-commerce giants such as Taobao, Didi Chuxing, and Hema, and use it to study cities and predict trends in urban development. Big Data from these companies can help analysts gain a different perspective on a city’s development potential, Shen said.

Numbers of Alipay users in a given city can indicate the age distribution and affluence of a community, while data from Didi and Dianping can provide information on a population’s daily movement and habits. Based on this data, the cities of Hangzhou and Zhengzhou rank much higher than they would if rankings relied solely on traditional indicators such as GDP.

After crunching all these numbers, Shen and her team at The Rising Lab team then annually rank all of China’s 338 prefectural-level cities by commercial attractiveness. They chose to rank all 338 cities in order to maximize the audience for their work. “Chinese people like rankings, especially mayors,” Shen said.

A cold call from a mayor who had seen the rankings led to consulting contracts with several cities about ways to develop and improve their commercial attractiveness.

For instance, when Shen analyzed user data from e-commerce apps in Chengdu, it showed that the city’s substantial nightlife was underserved by public transportation. After sharing her findings with the mayor of Chengdu, the government decided to increase late night bus services.  

Data visualized for the Chengdu bus lines running late into the night

Shen emphasized the importance of using multiple skills in her work, which combines reporting and data analysis abilities. In addition, leading The Rising Lab has also taught her how to create a business model, set achievable goals, and work within a budget.

“Don’t be so calculating about your future,” Shen said after she was asked what she would say to her 21-year old self. “Do what you truly enjoy, and it will pay you back in return. If you can give your whole life to a career, you will find your worth.”

The next talk in the “Young Entrepreneurs” series will be on Wednesday, March 27 with Jian Lili, the founder of 简单心理 (translation: simple psychology).