General Partner at SOSV
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Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
China is one of the top economic entities in the world. Many foreigners are starting their businesses in China from scratch or expanding from overseas to the Chinese market. Many opportunities exist: the biggest trend for today’s Chinese startup ecosystem is a focus on deep tech. You really need a technical advantage in order to survive as a startup. It could be AI or blockchain, but deep tech is the key to startup success in China today.
China is increasingly becoming a consumer market and much of its economic growth is consumer-driven rather than coming from exports or manufacturing. Retail and service companies are probably in the best position to take advantage of that. Another trend is automation. China’s labor supply is full. It has become much more expensive in China to operate than before, so robotics and automation will be key drivers over the next three to five years. The third trend is China going outside its borders. China’s development today on the Internet side has been mostly focused on the domestic market. Some of the most valuable Internet companies in the world are Chinese, but most of them haven’t historically operated outside of China. That changes now. Chinese companies are becoming world leaders, and you might not see them in Western Europe or North America, but you can find them in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa (the first mobile-only markets). These markets are very similar to the Chinese market, where people’s first experience on the Internet is on their smartphone.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
There was a major policy change where China went from “being rich is evil” to “being rich is a virtue.” The traditional Chinese goal of building businesses and the desire to be an owner as opposed to being a worker was suppressed for many years, but with liberalization, things changed. When the economy opened, starting with free trade zones and then the entire market, the country very rapidly went from a controlled economy to a majority market economy. That built the foundation for the top economy in the world. China went from zero to hero in the space of thirty years.
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Northern Light Venture Capital (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Jiangsu): Founded in 2005, Northern Light is a venture capital firm targeting early stage opportunities of innovation and disruptive technology. (Source: Northern Light Venture Capital)
Tsinghua x-lab (Beijing): Officially launched in April 2013, the x-lab operates under the auspices of the School of Economics and Management and links 14 schools and departments across Tsinghua University, including Mechanical Engineering, Natural Sciences, Information Science and Technology, Arts and Design, Medicine, Aerospace , Environment, Architecture, Materials Science and Engineering, Public Policy and Management, Journalism and Communication, Law, and Engineering Physics. The Tsinghua Entrepreneur & Executive Club (TEEC) and Tsinghua Science Park (TusPark) are strategic founding partners. (Source: Tsinghua x-lab)
Plug and Play China (Beijing, Shanghai): Includes accelerator programs across 9 industry verticals.
SOSV/Chinaccelerator (Shanghai): The first mentorship-driven, seed-funding accelerator program in China for entrepreneurs innovating at the cutting edge of information technology, either entering China, expanding across SE Asia, and ultimately dominating globally. (Source: SOSV)
SOSV/HAX (Shenzhen): HAX is the world’s first and most prolific accelerator program for hardware, robotics, and connected devices. (Source: SOSV)
SparkLabs Beijing (Beijing): A general technology program accepting startups from the internet, internet of things, mobile, ecommerce, digital media, blockchain and other sectors. SparkLabs Beijing is focused on helping local entrepreneurs to eventually expand beyond China. (Source: SparkLabs Beijing)
Innoway (Beijing): A government-backed campus that houses hundreds of startups in a mixture of investor offices, cafes, and “incubators”—dedicated work spaces that provide internet, electricity, and desks. It’s located in Beijing’s tech-heavy Zhongguancun neighborhood, itself known for housing Baidu, Tencent, and other Chinese internet companies since the early 2000s. (Source: Quartz)
Z-Park (Beijing): Located in Zhongguancun Science Park, Z-Park is a professional science park specialized in new-generation IT industry. (Source: Z-Park)
Chinaccelerator 8X8 Speakers Series (Beijing, Shanghai): Twice a year, Chinaccelerator invites 8 mentors – serial entrepreneurs and investors – to share their experiences on starting up in China and beyond for 8 minutes. (Source: Chinaccelerator)
MWC Shanghai (Shanghai): An annual conference focused on mobile technology. It includes 4YFN Shanghai, an event focusing particularly on startups in the mobile space.
NewCo Shanghai (Shanghai): NewCo is a new kind of event experience: part open studio tour, part business conference, with the vibe of a music festival. Attendees select the companies they want to explore, and see the home offices of those companies firsthand while meeting face-to-face with founders and CEOs. (Source: Chinaccelerator)
Innovation Funds for Small and Medium Science & Technology Enterprises: The Innovation Fund for small technology-based firms (STF) is a government fund to support technology innovation through loan interest subsidies and equity investment. (Source: Innofund)
National New Products Program: A government-policy-supported program put forward by the Ministry of Science and Technology to guide and encourage enterprises and research institutes to accelerate technical progress for science and engineering products. (Source: National New Products Program)
Torch Program: The Torch Program from MOST (the Ministry of Science and Technology) kick-started Chinese high-tech innovation and startups. Torch has four major parts: Innovation Clusters, Technology Business Incubators (TBIs), Seed Funding (Innofund) and Venture Guiding Fund. (Source: Torch)
Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai): A leading research university focused on the sciences.
36Kr: 36Kr is a China-based publishing and data company, offering both news and information about Chinese tech.
TechNode: A trusted and respected information outlet and events organizer. TechNode partners with US tech media company TechCrunch.
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