The last word from the East: The secrets of the fastest billion-dollar company

Barney Loehnis
Ogilvy & Mather

You might have heard of Xiaomi: it's one of the most exciting start-ups that China has produced – a BlackBerry and Apple slayer; a hero for a generation of young Chinese; and a model disruptor. It is the fastest ever startup to reach revenues of $1 billion. Within three years, it has built a business that is selling 20 million phones a year with revenue of $5.3 billion; this is projected to rise to 40 million handsets and more than $10 billion in 2014.

In such a viciously competitive world, where giants like Nokia, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft and others have failed, what drives such incredible success from Xiaomi? And why? Whatever it's got, get me one of those.

At first glance, the recipe seems simple: it comes with a clear vision of what value proposition consumers are looking for (low price, good quality); it asks its fans what features they want, and involves them every step of the way; and it is incredibly quick to market, quick to respond to competitors, and quick to deliver against the feedback and requests that consumers have given.