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Fast Talk: A Pioneer's Startup Story

Tom Bedecarre

San Francisco, California

Tom Bedecarre, 51, who recently launched AKQA mobile to create ad content for cell phones, has several clients—including Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Nike, and Visa—with their eyes set on the Olympics. The phone-centric Chinese have more than 500 million handsets.

"The Olympics is the debutante ball for China. The rising consumer class will be an engine of growth for the next 10 to 20 years. That's why we opened an office in Shanghai: When the Olympic rings come down, we'll be integrated in the local community.

But, ugh, was the process painful! It took us almost a year. My new buddy is the local notary public because every other day there's another stack of paperwork I need to sign for the Chinese government. Before we finished, we had already outgrown our original Shanghai space. We had to spend $15,000 on another round of paperwork just to move from one side of the city to the other. I was so happy when I finally heard from the Chinese government that everything was approved and the messenger was on his way. Then the courier's office called. The messenger was robbed, and his pack was stolen. We were back at square one! In hindsight, maybe we should have just done a joint venture. But we are the first interactive ad agency in China to have wholly foreign-owned status. And that has to mean something."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.