When Deng Xiaoping told his startled countrymen that "to get rich is glorious" two decades ago, he might have had someone like Wang Wenjing in mind. The 36-year-old software entrepreneur, who grew up an impoverished farmer's son, has built Beijing-based UFSoft-- whose transliterated Chinese characters stand for "user's friend"--into one of China's most successful financial and accounting software companies. Last year, Wang floated UFSoft on the Shanghai stock exchange, earning $602 million for his 55.2% stake in the company. Even though his paper worth has since dropped to $304 million, Wang is still one of China's richest people.
Born in the small village of Shangrao, in the mountainous Jiangxi province, Wang excelled as a student and was able to win a spot in the Jiangxi University of Finance & Economics when he was just 15. Graduating with honors, Wang was given a government job in Beijing--the only person from his village ever to attain such a posting. His task: to develop computerized financial software for the State Council's government offices administration. "People viewed me as at the peak of success," Wang recalls.
Guaranteed job security wasn't enough for Wang, however. In December, 1988, the then-24-year-old quit his government job and with several college classmates scraped together $5,500 to start UFSoft. The move dismayed his parents, who feared doing private business was too risky. At first, software orders were few and far between, and financing was always a challenge, as Beijing reserved all bank loans for its state enterprises. Still, "we believed in our capabilities, and we knew we could find a market for our software," says Wang.
How times have changed. In the past few years, demand for UFSoft's accounting and financial software has soared. One new client is the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, whose more than 3,400 branches are now installing Wang's software. UFSoft, which now has more than 3,000 employees, last year reported profits of $8.4 million on revenues of $40 million. With China encouraging entrepreneurship, Wang is optimistic about the future. His ultimate aim: to become one of the world's top 50 software makers by 2010. "We want to be a world-class company," says Wang. Bold words for a farmer's son.