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Drive time in China

By Eric Jou (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-08 07:35
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BEIJING - All driving tests can be hard, but the Chinese driving exam is a beast on a whole other level. Enter David Van Dyke and the team of software developers, who have devised a new way to prepare for the 13,000-question exam.

Both the app and the company ThinkNao are the brainchildren of Van Dyke, a 43 year-old Beijing resident from Windsor, Canada. Van Dyke devised the app, China Drive, as a means to help foreigners and locals like himself who have found it difficult to take the massive Chinese driving exam.

Drive time in China

"What foreigners have to do to get their license is to get a 90 percent score," said Van Dyke. "I remember I failed it my first time because there was a bunch of questions that related to points; how many points do you lose if you drink and drive, how many points do you lose if you hit a pedestrian, they're all different points.

"There's also a bunch on different fines, so it's hard unless you memorize that and that's where I got caught up."

Seeking to prevent others from having to repeat his mistakes, Van Dyke came up with the idea for the application. Van Dyke's ThinkNao specializes in creating educational software geared to help people study.

After corporate opportunities in Hong Kong and Japan, Van Dyke got a offer from Nokia Siemens Networks to manage its Beijing office, and he jumped at the chance. He and his family moved to Beijing in the fall of 2006, but it wasn't until the 2008 Olympic Games that he decided to venture on with his own company, ThinkNao.

"During the Olympics, I and a couple of friends went to the bar to watch the basketball game, and in the bar they had WiFi. We wanted to see the score from another game, the guy across the bar had an iPod touch," said Van Dyke. "Within a minute he had the score and turned it off. Twenty minutes later I still couldn't get the WiFi connection to work. When I did it was very difficult to navigate."

Soon after that, an idea came to him when he was on a business trip while his wife hit a brick wall trying to finish an online computer class with his suddenly malfunctioning laptop.

Van Dyke came home braced for recriminations, but he found the problem was solved without him.

"I had left the iPod Touch at home," said Van Dyke. "All the things she wanted to do from an educational point of view she could. It made me realize that this is also an educational tool and a replacement for bulky laptops."

That "light bulb" moment eventually led Van Dyke to launch his company, ThinkNao. ThinkNao has a total of 14 different study apps, including one called Are You Ready For a Puppy?

China Daily

(China Daily 02/08/2011 page5)

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