Chinese Urban Dictionary: Fengkou

By Mia Li, October 18, 2019

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fengkou / fēngkǒu / 风口 n. wind tunnel; an area or sector where, for a period of time, all investors want to invest in; a much-hyped but often empty concept

A: What is your new start-up? 

B: It’s online-to-offline social-enabled and location-based haircuts. 

A: So… a barbershop? 

B: Yes, but a barbershop on a fengkou!

Most people have the problem of not having enough money, while some have the opposite problem of having too much money and not knowing where to put it. Since the latter group is not inherently smarter than the former, moneyed people want to put their money where all the other moneyed people do, for reasons no sounder than “I’ve heard it’s a good idea.” These spots where all investors want to put their money because they’ve heard it’s a good investment, are called fengkou

Fengkou literally means a wind tunnel. Just like how you can throw anything into a wind tunnel and it will fly, any start-up thrown into a fengkou will float from an ample amount of investors’ money, regardless of its quality. If you know where the fengkou is, investors will throw money at you even if all you have is a PowerPoint presentation. 

Many attribute the popularity of the word to Xiaomi founder Lei Jun, who famously said that even a pig can fly if it stands in a wind tunnel. (His critics have countered with “Don’t forget you are a pig when you stand in a wind tunnel.”) 

When the fengkou was renewable energy, investors chased solar, hydro and even hamster wheel energy generators. When thefengkou was the sharing economy, there were shared bikes, cars, vacation homes, umbrellas and even basketballs – an app called Zhu Le Ge Qiu or ‘pig a basketball’ received over 10 million yuan in its pre-A round in 2016 and promptly went bankrupt in 2018. (We don’t think it’s a coincidence that the app had the word ‘pig’ in its name.) 

If you don’t have money to invest, you can also contribute to the fengkou economy by providing hype. Read up on cryptocurrency and tell all your friends to buy the latest coin or a crypto-kitty. Enroll in an online college and brag about how e-education is the future. Buy a 5G phone and practice despising 4G download speed. 

From Jack Ma to Elon Musk, everyone is looking for the next fengkou. Will it be delivery drones, smart pets or connectivity-enabled peanut butter? No one knows, but you better be there when it happens!

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