China leads innovation in mobile internet space but must attract foreign entrepreneurs to stay competitive, pundits say

Venture capitalists call to replicate Silicon Valley’s multicultural environment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 3:45pm

Chinese start-ups should look to overseas markets to stay competitive and welcome start-ups from around the world into China to become truly innovative, according to industry experts.

“Many Chinese entrepreneurs are still targeting the local user base, but it is time that we prepare ourselves to tackle overseas markets,” said Mike Cai, partner of Chinese venture capital company Longjing Capital.

Cai said that while every market has unique characteristics, there needs to be more of a global perspective and start-ups should aim to cover the regional or global market.

“The future of entrepreneurship does not differentiate between nationalities. The internet is already levelling the playing field,” he said, speaking at the 2016 Asia Beat conference in Xiamen, Fujian province on Thursday.

Cai cited Meitu, which specialises in producing camera and video apps that allow users to beautify selfies and short videos as an example of a Chinese company that is looking to expand overseas.

Many of China’s mobile innovations are not present in the United States, or even globally
Mike Cai

Meitu launched the Thai version of its Beauty Cam app in Thailand last August, achieving massive popularity among Thai users. Its daily download rate peaked at 150 million one month later.

“[Some of] China’s innovations are already moving towards a global stage,” said Cai, who emphasised that China leads innovation in the mobile internet space.

Over 688 million users access the internet on mobile devices in China, representing slightly over half of all nation’s internet users, according to data from the China Internet Network Information Centre.

“Many of China’s mobile innovations are not present in the United States, or even globally,” Cai said. “We should also target users from outside China.”

Meanwhile, larger Chinese companies have been investing heavily in overseas expansion. Alibaba, for example, has opened up its e-commerce platform Taobao to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore, as well as beefing up its overseas logistics networks.

Li Zhu, a partner of Innovation Angel Fund, said that in order to increase innovation in China, it is also necessary to welcome start-ups from different countries to do business in China.

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“The reason that Silicon Valley is so innovative is because of the immigration culture,” said Li, as this multicultural environment allows entrepreneurs with different perspectives to bounce ideas off each other.

“When entrepreneurs [in Silicon Valley] want to expand their business to the rest of the world, they are already able to better understand the local culture,” Li added.

“People do not usually emigrate to China, so we should welcome international teams to start-up here instead. For China to become a truly innovative country, we need to attract more people from around the world to do business in the Chinese market.”