Zhongchu Li

Li Zhongchu

Once a civil servant who made more money in an hour repairing computers on the side than in a month at his actual job, Li, 51, started Shiji in his bedroom in 1998. He quickly earned contracts from the likes of the Shangri-La hotel group and now makes software for the hospitality industry, including 6,000 hotels in China. Last September, Alibaba Group bought a 15-percent stake in the business for nearly US$460 million, with a plan to allow for Shiji tech support on the Taobao travel website.