Last month, Techsumption Ventures and a team of 8 Singapore based start-ups embarked on a trip to one of the ancient capital cities in China, Nanjing. Designated as one of the up and coming innovation city in China, the city has been receiving many investments from both local and foreign authorities and enterprises. The purpose of the trip was to participate in the “Win in Nanjing” grand finals held in Jian Ye district, and to explore the Chinese market and culture within the city, and if the city was a suitable place to be a launch pad for SEA based start-ups and companies hoping to expand into China.

When we arrived at the event, the teams were impressed with the resources spent into planning and executing the event. Professional emcees and hosts were hired; and models were engaged to usher and guide the crowd, enlightening the team to a higher form of generating buzz for an event. Our personal learnings at the event guided us for our next event, the Suzhou Venture Contest 2019. Yet, the focus of the trip was really to dive deep into whether the city, and by extension the country were ready for foreign entrepreneurs.

The government is willing to execute, but there are implementation and asymmetric gaps in the system

With all the technological advancements, one thing which was surprising is that businesses and authorities are still very much paper driven. Official documents are handled on paper and require handwritten inputs and face to face verification and signature for further processing. Yet, this presents immense opportunities for new companies tackling those exact pain points. That is why companies such as Alibaba and Tencent were able to execute on specific gaps with new ventures (Alipay, WeChat etc.).

Regardless, the noteworthy trait of hard work and hustling really shines through for China

In China, the emphasis on execution is a crucial learning point. We see workers and employees who are willing to sacrifice and give up specific pursuits to achieve a higher goal, sometimes out of necessity, other times out of conscious decisions. That allows them to compete more effectively (putting aside the moral dispute of labor exploitation) against companies which are stagnant and relishing previous glories based internationally. It is no surprise that more and more Chinese start-ups are achieving unicorn statuses, as they compete on the rise to the top with international competitors. For example, Tik Tok, an up and rising application even temporarily beat Facebook as the most downloaded application for a specific month.

At the end of the day, we hold positive sentiments about China still being the future with the following opportunities:

  • A large domestic market
  • Deep-rooted market problems and inefficiencies still exist in the economy
  • Resources are available if you know where to look for and exploit it
  • Producer country with a large number of graduates and talents who can be tapped on
  • Friendly and favorable policies in recent years (not sure if that will change with the trade war)