In 1919, at just 26 years of age, Starr started working as a clerk at the Pacific Mail Steamship Company in Yokohama, Japan, but rapidly grew tired of it and, after only half a year, he moved to Shanghai, China, where he took over an insurance business from an American business man, and soon after also organized the American Asiatic Underwriters, Inc.
C.V. Starr noted that many Chinese lived to a venerable age, and calculated that improving living standards would likely cause a further decline in the death rate. Displaying a trait that would later become a hallmark of the American International culture, he formed his own company, hired prominent Chinese to serve on the board, and talented local people to sell insurance to their own people. The most popular product was a 20-year endowment policy.
It was said of Mr. Starr that he was "very quiet, unassuming, but very forceful. He could sell anybody anything."
Here he is shown in 1922, when he visited an old Chinese temple complex, in the Xishan hills in Wuxi.