今年八月，XMind 创始人兼 CEO 孙方作为互联网领域 #Outlier# 的代表，站上了 TEDxFutian 2018年度大会的舞台，和大家分享他是如何用与众不同的方式，把 2500 年前的佛陀智慧融入自己的生活与工作的管理中。
关于 TEDxFutian 2018 大会
TEDxFutian 是深圳首个获得 TED 官方授权的标准型 TEDx 活动组织，致力于传播有价值的思想，以“Spread ideas, Inspire creativity”为组织理念，期望通过思想碰撞尝试激发更多创想。
本次 TEDxFutian 2018 年度大会以 #Outlier / 异常值# 为主题，共邀请了7位各个领域中的 outlier，和大家一起探索带来无限可能的科技、发人深思的人文和艺术观、极富前瞻的科学视角，以及激发无限创意的设计思维。
12 年前，我和我小伙伴们就开始创业做 XMind。并且在创业之初，我们就订立了一个规矩，既然思维导图是我们自己认为正确的事情，那我们就要做一辈子！做一辈子是一种态度。也许我们做不了一辈子，也许我们没有能力养活自己，也许这个市场只是昙花一现，这些都随缘，但是我们需要做一辈子的心态，然后用这种心态来应对眼前的每一件事。
首先是理想不一样。那我的理想是什麽呢？就是让每一个人都用上思维导图软件。在我们进入这个市场的时候，市场是两极分化的，一边是Mindmanager，很贵，很贵，而且贵得没道理，另一边是开源软件 Freemind，很粗糙，很简陋，功能很有限。而我们的产品 XMind，是全功能的思维导图软件，这个时候我完全可以卖得像 Mindmanager 一样贵，或者是他的一半价格吧，肯定能卖得掉。但是我没有，因为我热爱思维导图，我就希望更多的人能用上思维导图。所以在当时，出人意料的是，我们选择了免费加付费的商业模式，也就是俗称 Freemium。
即使是 Freemium，也有很多种路子可选。我们选择了把我们的大部分功能免费，请注意，不是基础版免费哦，是大部分功能免费。我说得更夸张一点，核心功能都是免费的，只有 20% 的用户会在 20% 的时间碰上我们的付费功能。为什麽这么设计？这难道不是反常理的吗？难道不应该是花的精力多的功能付费吗？是不是意味著你们的工程师大部分时间都去做免费的东西去了？
答案是：是的。为什麽这么设计？还是为了让更多的人能用上思维导图软件。因为我们要把这件事情做一辈子，我们要做真正对用户有用的东西。付费的 20% 用户一定是重度用户，他们有时候会有一些专业性的需求，而这一部分专业功能我们收费。所以付费用户都是很开心地去付费，因为我们的产品打动了他们。
我知道大家想问什麽？这样能养活自己吗？不仅能养活自己，而且还可以养活一支队伍。因为用户的基数越大，挣到的钱就越多。而且因为 XMind 的免费功能已经十分强大了，所以用户的基数一直在增长，其实我们没有做什麽广告，全是靠的口口相传。到了2009年，我们已经在欧美市场扎稳了脚跟，到了2012年，我们已经超过 Mindmanager，成为全球最受欢迎的思维导图软件，至今仍然稳坐第一把交椅。所以这个事情是可以做一辈子的。
这个时候，投资者也是纷至踏来。但是我们没有接受任何投资，也没有接受任何 IPO 的计划，我们的目标是做一个小而美的公司。我们曾经获过一个奖，叫「红鲱鱼亚洲一百强」，在颁奖典礼的现场，就有很多投资人主动前来，问我们要多少投资，我说，对不起，我们不要钱。他们觉得很奇怪，你是不是脑子被门夹过啊？
对我而言，我热爱思维导图软件，所以我就要做 XMind 做一辈子，一直这样做下去。专注给了我们一种勇气，让我们对诱惑说不。专注也给了我们一种信心，让我们潜下心去钻研产品的设计，打磨产品的细节。我们做了 12 年的 XMind，我就能给你找到用了 12 年 XMind 的老用户，你信不信？（照片）这是我们今年在美国，英国，澳大利亚分别做了三场线下的交流会，遇到了很多 12 年老用户。我们惊奇地发现，他们最喜欢的功能，也都是我们自己最喜欢的功能，也都是我们打磨地最仔细的功能。那种感觉真的很好，好像我们和用户今天才认识，又好像我们已经认识了 12 年。
我们公司还有一个更奇怪的现象，就是「按时下班」。在科技园，找一个按时下班的公司比找北极熊还难。为什麽大家都要加班呢？因为大部分 IT 公司都是别人有什麽，我们就要做什麽，一定要比别人做得早，一定要比别人做得快，一定要比别人做得多，统统是这种思路，什麽东西都要抢。只要你有这种思路，你就一定要加班，不管你有多少人，不管你有多少钱，不管你有几个产品，你一定要加班。因为在这样的公司，工作是做不完的。
这里，我不得不引入佛法中的两个概念「随缘」和「攀缘」。刚刚说的这个「一定要做」四个字，就是攀缘，这是一种有毒的方法论，竞争对手之间以攀比的心态来做功能，做了大量重複的工作，结果就是浪费时间，浪费人，浪费代码。攀缘还有一个更大的危害，这些攀出来的功能超过了团队的执行能力，这些功能做得一塌糊涂，根本就没有人用。在我们这个行业，这种现象每天都在发生。Getting Real 这本书上说用户宁愿要半个产品，也不愿要一个半不拉拉的产品。
这种模式适合每一个公司吗？我看行！苹果之所以是苹果就是因为他们坚持软件和硬件是一体的，他们认为这是正确的事情，并且他们要做一辈子，即使在创始人离世十几年之后，整个公司仍然坚持这一点。但愿我们公司也能做到。巴菲特说过，如果你不想持有一支股票10年，那你就连10分钟也不要持有，你应该也用这种态度来做产品。Basecamp 的创始人说，我们要把 Basecamp 做到互联网终结的那一天，我非常喜欢这句话。
你们知道这种信念的力量有多大吗？前几天我见了一位很久没见的国外回来的老同学，寒暄几句之后，她问我是干什么的，我说我是做思维导图软件的，她可能感觉到我要向她安利我们的产品，为了堵住我的嘴，她立即就说，哦~，思维导图软件啊，我知道我知道，但是我只用 XMind 的，然后把头髮这么一扬。接下来她足足向我安利了 20 分钟 XMind 的优点。分手的时候我说，谢谢你，我今天学到了很多。
你们知道吗？我们的同事在美国做城铁，有人主动找她搭讪，不是因为她长得好看，而是因为她背了印有 XMind logo 的布包。你们能不能想象一个深圳本土的小团队，能够在世界各地处处受尊重。以至于到现在还有很多用户坚定地相信我们一定在硅谷有人。
现场演讲稿（英文）-- What Makes Me Say No to VC
The first time for Chinese people to get to know “Mind Mapping” was the appearance of a book called “The Learning Revolution”. The word “Mind Map” was then translated into Chinese as “Nao Tu” (a picture of brain), not “Si Wei Dao Tu” as we call it today. That was the year when I was in middle school. As I walked into the bookstore, and opened the book “The Learning Revolution”, I fell in love with those “mind maps” at the very first glance. From then on, most of my class notes in school were taken in the form of mind maps. To this day, I still keep these class notes like history, mathematics, and physics.
Hand-drawn mind maps obviously have some drawbacks. They’re limited to the size of the paper. They can’t be easily modified. They can’t be re-organized. And they don’t support searching, of course.
After I graduated from college, I happened to know a mind mapping app made by a German company, called “MindManager”. Software covers all shortages of hand-drawn mind maps. Then I realized that mind mapping software can help everyone clarify their minds and develop creativity. It is something I love. It is what I think is right. It is beneficial to the society. And it’s also profitable. So, why not to start up a business?
12 years ago, we started up a company making mind mapping software, called “XMind”. At the very beginning of the start-up, we came to an agreement that, since we all regard mind mapping software something worthwhile, we shall do it for the rest of our lives. It is an attitude to do something for the rest of our lives. Maybe we can’t make it to the end of our lives. Maybe the whole market is a flash in the pan. Maybe we can’t even support ourselves. So be it. All that we care is the attitude of spending the rest of our lives to deal with every tiny little thing around us.
When you think this way, you also look from a completely different perspective. And I’m going to explain it with a few examples.
First, the dreams are totally different. What is my dream? My dream is to make mind mapping software available to every single person. When we stepped into this market, it was seriously “polarized”. On one side, there was MindManger, at an extremely high price, irrationally. On the other side, there was FreeMind, open source, rough and simple, with only limited functionalities. In the contrast, our product, XMind, is a full- featured mind mapping tool. I could have made its price as high as MindManager, or at least a half of it. It would have sold any way. But we did not. We, unexpectedly, chose a business model combining “free” and “premium”, as known as “Freemium”.
Even speaking of Freemium, there were still many options. We chose to make most of the product free of charge. Please notice that it’s not only free for a few basic features, but also for the most of all features. To be more obvious, all the core features are totally offerred for free, so that only 20% of our users, in 20% of the time during their usage, hit some premium features. Isn’t it counterintuitive? Why don't you let users pay for features that are exhausting to design and develop? Does it mean that your developers spend most of their time working for those free features?
The answer is “Yes.” But why? It is designed so that more people can have a chance to use mind mapping software. As we think mind mapping software is really helpful to us, we also want it to be helpful to everyone else.
I know what you might ask. Can we make money this way? Sure we can. And it can also support a whole team. The bigger our user-base is, then, the better the product sells, and the more we earn. Meanwhile, the free part of the app are so sufficient and powerful, that its user-base has been continuously growing. In 2009, we have established a foothold in the US and European market. In 2012, we have surpassed all of our competitors and become “the most popular mind mapping software on the planet”. And today we’re still leading the market. It means we can keep doing this for the rest of our lives.
At that moment, investors came, one after another. But we declined all investments, as well as all IPO plans. We simply want to be small yet elegant. We have once been awarded as one of Red Herring Asia Top 100 Winners. At the cermony, many investors approached me, and asked if we want any investment. My answer was “Sorry, but we don't need money.” They were surprised at how the hell a man in the world does not need money, “Are you kidding me?”
The best practice of business of the current era is nothing but making a concept. Then turn it into a product that makes money, and sell it to someone else while it’s still making money. Then, they retire, or dive into real estate. The whole industry is impetuous.
I have a friend. He’s about the same age as me, and started up his own business at about the same time as me. but still has nothing today. If you ask him about his dream, he will tell you that his dream is to earn a hundred million dollars overnight. Because of such a dream of nothing but money, he has been continuously changing directions over this many years. Rather than making good products, he prefers whatever popular or trending.
For me, I love mind mapping, and I'd love to stick to this for the rest of my life. Such focus gave me the courage to say “No” to seductions. Such focus gave me the confidence so that I could dive into the product's details and design.
We’ve been working on XMind for 12 years. And you’re guaranteed to find some 12- year-long XMind users out there. Believe it or not? This year we organized three offline workshops in the United States, Australia, and Europe. At these workshops, we witnessed real 12-year-long XMind users. What surprised us is that the features these users love the most are exactly the ones we love the most as well, and also the ones we polished the most carefully. That was truly amazing. It’s like we just get to know each other today, and also have known each other for as long as 12 years.
There’s another phenomenon in my company: “No Overtime”. In Nanshan Sci-tech Park (Shenzhen), it’s hard to find a company that gets off work on time, even harder than finding a polar bear. Why do these companies work overtime? That’s because their philosophy is to do whatever others are doing. And they must do it faster, must do it earlier, and must do even more. You cannot but work overtime, if you have this idea in mind, fighting, even battling, for basically anything. No matter how many employees you have, no matter how much money you have, no matter you have one or more products or projects, you are bound to work overtime, if you have this idea in mind. In such companies, work sheets never end.
For the sake of explaining this situation, I’d like to introduce two terms from Buddhism, “Grasping vs. Not Grasping”. The phrase “must do” as I just mentioned is an expression of grasping. It is a toxic methodology. Competitors make plans by pursuing each other, causing a large amount of duplicated work, wasting resources, wasting energy, wasting time, and wasting source code. Grasping may cause even greater harm. Pursuing others’ features will quickly exceed the team’s execution capability, making the product a total mess, that nobody wants to use. It happens every single day in our industry. So, as said in a book called “Getting Real”, users want “half a product”, rather than “a half- assed product”.
Then, how do we get our work finished on time? Is it because we care more about sleeping time? Is it because we practice healthy life-style? Or is it because we have less meetings? No, no, no, we have no less meetings than others. It is because in a company like ours, work can be done. It’s because our goal, is to do less than others, slower than others, and later than others. But to polish our product more carefully than any other for the rest of our lives.
You may say that in your market, there are no big-fish. No Microsoft. No Apple. No Google. That’s why you don’t have to work overtime. I disagree with that. It would be highly appreciated to have big companies into this market, because that would fix the issue for us that a large number of people have no idea of this kind of software. So, the more companies entering this market, the more people getting to know mind mapping, and the more money we can make. So I would regard big companies as friends rather than competitors.
I just mentioned three differences. Since our dreams are meant for the rest of our lives, then, the first, we have a different business model, to make more people get to know mind mapping software, the second, we have a different focus, to put our heart and soul into our products while others are struggling for investments, and the third, we have a different culture, to allow us work 35 hours a week without bleeding my employees dry, because we have a long way to go together.
Does this model work for any company? I think so! The reason why Apple becomes Apple, is that they insist on the integrity of software and hardware. That’s what they thought was right, and what they were going to do for the rest of their lives. Even though it’s been 10 years since they lost their founding leader, the whole company still remains firmly on this path. How I hope we could do so as well!
Mr. Buffett said that “If you aren’t thinking about owning a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes.” We all should make our products in this spirit. The Basecamp team posted on their website that they will support Basecamp “until the end of the Internet”. I love this idea so much!
Are you aware of how powerful this kind of faith can be? A few days ago, I met a former classmate who came back from abroad. After a short greeting, she asked me what I’m currently working on. I said that I make mind mapping software. She might instantly feel like I would start to promote my product, and, to stop my mouth, she said “Oh, mind mapping software. I know that. But I use only XMind.” Then she swung her hair like this.
In the next 20 minutes, she kept promoting to me all features and advantages of XMind.
Before I left, I said “Thank you. I’ve learned a lot today.”
There’s another story. A colleague of mine was once taking the train in U.S. and picked up by a stranger, not because she looks pretty, but because she was carrying a bag with XMind logo printed. Imagine that a small team native in Shenzhen receives respect everywhere around the world. Even today, there are still many users thinking that we must be based in Silicon Valley.
The three points I mentioned today are actually the three reasons of happiness. The first, happy for giving. The second, happy for less demand. The third, happy for a nice office atmosphere. So I just said “We simply want to be small yet elegant.”
Now you might ask “Is it hard to follow your heart?” Yes, very much. There are not only obstacles, but also endless seductions. Sometimes I have to seek for a higher level wisdom to help me think out of the box.
One of my favorite books is “What Makes You Not a Buddhist”, written by a great Buddhist master, who happens to be a movie director as well. Many of his literary films have been awarded at movie festivals. Every time I encounters a dilemma, this book influences the way of my thinking with a higher level wisdom. When I see only the sales numbers, it helps me step out and see my products. When I see only my products, it helps me see my heart. If I see only this life, it even teaches me to think beyond lifetimes. I strongly recommend this book to you.
Someone may argue that only old men can see through their lives, while young men see only profits in a short term. I definitely disagree with that. That’s because they haven’t been benefited. If we start up a business by means of doing it for the rest of our lives, if we make every decision by means of doing it for the rest of our lives, if we deal with every tiny little thing around us by means of doing it for the rest of our lives, we shall live in peace and freedom for the rest of our lives. Thank you.
正是靠着这种态度和初心，让 XMind 在这 12 年中 火遍世界各地。但没有所有用户们的喜爱和支持，我们没办法走到今天。在这里，非常诚挚地谢谢每一位 XMind 的用户，我们会持续且努力地继续打磨好精品，让每一个人都能用上思维导图软件。