contextChina: Online Media Company Connects the Pacific Northwest and China
“Success for me personally means making a difference in the relationship between the U.S. and China by creating a media source with a fresh approach. Technology can help us bridge the gap across the Pacific and talk to each other directly.”
-Kristi Heim, co-founder and president of contextChina
Kristi Heim is founder and president of contextChina, an online media company connecting the Pacific Northwest and China. She started the company in 2012 to provide locally relevant news and information about China. She has a passion for global engagement, international education and entrepreneurship.
Ms. Heim works part time for the University of Washington, where she is assistant director of the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington. She also serves on the board of the Washington State China Relations Council.
Q: Tell us about your career path to your current job.
A: I worked as a journalist for most of my career, but technology has had a disruptive influence on the media industry. If you have to maintain an existing business, it can be scary. But if you think about the potential for new business, it’s exhilarating.
I had been thinking about starting an information source on China for a long time. I finally decided to form contextChina after talking with Anders Brown, who had experience in the IT industry and in China. We both saw the need for locally relevant information about China, and an online platform where people could share their knowledge. Our site was launched less than a year ago and has seen great momentum.
Q: What role do you play at contextChina?
A: I am president and managing editor. I manage a team of contributors, edit the stories and produce the website. I also handle business development and marketing.
Q: What is your vision for contextChina?
A: Our vision is to offer a fresh voice, insightful information and valuable expertise on key sectors of the economy related to China.
Q: Do you have a favorite inspirational quotation?
A: “Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.” -Paul Hawken
Q: What kind of a response has contextChina received from readers in the Pacific Northwest?
A: Readers here in the Northwest make up our core audience and have been fantastic supporters. We have many China experts in our area, and we have profiled a number of them, while others have authored guest posts for us. They are helping us create a community of people who want to build better connections between our region and China, starting with information.
Q: How have readers in China responded?
A: It’s very exciting to hear from people who have discovered the site in China. For them it offers a point of view that is different from most U.S. media, and they can learn a lot about our region and its connections to China through our coverage.
Q: What is your success strategy for contextChina?
A: We want to continue producing great content and testing the platform to understand what people find most useful, and at the same time focus on developing higher value research products and consulting services. We are constantly learning and refining as we go.
Success for me personally means making a difference in the relationship between the U.S. and China by creating a media source with a fresh approach. Technology can help us bridge the gap across the Pacific and talk to each other directly.
As we look at the next evolution of this complex relationship, it’s important to find models for new thinking and inspiration. We can start by understanding not just the problems but also the solutions of those who are most deeply engaged and successful. Some of those people and companies are right here in the Puget Sound region.
Q: What has your company achieved that makes you proud?
A: We have amassed a talented team of contributors, from a PhD candidate at Oxford to a UW-trained lawyer in Beijing to Seattle writers with an expertise in health, energy and environment.
We completed an overhaul of the site and redesign within the first year, going from what looked like a very good blog to an elegant site that now gives our content the organization and professional treatment it deserves and will serve us well into the future. I’m proud of that milestone.
Q: Why did you choose to locate contextChina in the Bellevue/Seattle area?
A: I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We live in the best part of the country, if not the world, because we have a remarkable combination of strengths: access to a pristine natural environment at our doorstep, robust international connections and an innovative high-tech economy, not to mention a thriving arts and cultural scene.
Q: What fun things do you enjoy doing in the Bellevue/Seattle area?
A: I enjoy outdoor sports the most – soccer, hiking, swimming, stand-up paddle surfing, skiing and snowshoeing.
Q: What is your favorite memory about living or working here?
A: I love the fact that there are so many people here who are committed to changing the world for the better. This place fosters both the inspiration for positive change and the entrepreneurial drive to make it happen.
Q: Based on what you’ve been learning about China, what recommendations can you offer to U.S. companies interested in doing business in China?
A: Costs are rising and so is domestic competition. Pick your industry carefully. Find a good local partner and build a foundation of trust based on a shared vision and strong personal ties. Then create a business that helps improve people’s lives. Always assume that you will learn more than you will teach.
Q: In what ways are you optimistic about business relations between the United States and China?
A: One fact often overlooked is that more and more businesses are neither completely American nor completely Chinese. They are hybrids, formed by people like me who have ties and life experiences in both countries. Their success depends on multi-cultural, transnational teams. These businesses can leverage the best of both worlds. They bring benefits to both sides, and they are the way of the future.