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Beijing – the Silicon Valley of Asia

A bold statement to make? I wouldn’t think so – now that I’ve had the opportunity and time to deep-dive into the local business community and get in touch with the start-up/tech world on Beijing. It’s huge, flourishing and fast-paced!

No matter what you associated the capital of China with before (the Forbidden City, the Tiananmen Square or the Great Wall, maybe?), I’m here to tell you that from now on, you should think of it as the capital of the world’s largest consumer market with tremendous opportunities and where things are moving fast. Here we have small and fast-growing companies pushing the innovation and application forefront in areas such as AI, big data, cloud, blockchain, machine learning, automation and Internet of Things. To foster this, there is an extensive availability of incubators, accelerators, VCs, investors and funding. Describing the start-up and tech landscape in two words would be innovation and competition. It’s not unusual to find people in the tech industry working on a 996-schedule: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six-days-a-week. Moreover, tech giants such as Alibaba and Tencent that are already making headlines in international media don’t show any signs of slowing down their expansion and growth.

There is a lot you can read about on the internet and in the news, but nothing beats getting involved in the local business community and attend events to broaden your knowledge about local business practice as well as your network. Here are some events that I have attended in the past months to learn more about different topics on doing business in China, from different perspectives.



Elements of building a business in China

This event was organized by one of the leading startup accelerators in Asia, Chinaaccelerator, and invited eight of their mentors to share their insights on starting up in China. They represented serial entrepreneurs, industry experts and investors in areas such as Intellectual Property, language schools, mobile gaming, luxury consumer brands and spa home-delivery service. They openly shared their learnings from successes and mistakes, which is always interesting and in particular those that were specific to the Chinese market. Moreover, the accelerator’s latest batch of startups had the chance to make their elevator pitch in front of the large audience, which included the Beijing trainees Henning, Eliza and I, as well as our colleague Marie Claire Maxwell (Head of Start-up and Tech Lead in Asia Pacific), who happened to be in town that day.


Blockchain in Real LIfe

My favourite buzzword right now and a topic so hot that it’s almost on fire in China. Organized by the leading global startup community Startup Grind’s Beijing chapter as part of their regular event series on different topics. This time it was focused on blockchain, the disruptive technology and its potential (beyond speculation on cryptocurrencies) in real-world applications. The speakers Stephen Tse (Harmony) and Zi Wang (Third Planet) come from backgrounds in Google/Apple and are now running in the forefront to advance blockchain and create new business opportunities. Their claim; since the technology is at such an early stage right now and developing as we speak, it’s not hard to become an expert in this area after reading all the available whitepapers out there. Are you up for the challenge?


Artificial Intelligence redefined – how women in tech are shaping the future of AI

Another hot topic right now is artificial intelligence (AI) and how technology is so advanced it can perform tasks we coudln’t think of before. The event was organized by Startup Grind, inviting Virginia Tan (co-founder of She Loves Tech and LeanIn China), Wendy Wu (founder of Wonder Technology and YiQi App, a social app using AI to detect emotions from voice) and Patricia Wang (Director of Collaboration and Strategy, Intel Lab China). Among others, they touched upon the human or ethical boundaries for AI, what is human and what is machine in the end? On the topic of career choice and facing pressure from home to study a traditional subject you are not interested in, a good argument for why you (man or woman) should go for tech and AI is:  “AI will take over all our jobs anyway”.


How startups go global – global accelerators for overseas startups

Have you ever thought of why anyone would develop an app that is free to download and free to use, when 85% of app downloaders will never make an in-app purchase? (when was the last time you did that by the way?) The Peking University MBA Speaker series invited Yoni Eyal, General Manager of IronSource, an Israeli unicorn company in the AdTech/mobile ads industry to answer that question for us. Being a foreign startup with offices in Tel Aviv and San Francisco, making its way into China, cross-border partnerships, can create win-win possibility to access each others’ markets and resources. Another topic he touched upon was how fast-paced the Chinese mobile adtech industry actually is, with a labor turnover of 6-8 months.


How foreign companies can connect with tech in China

Be here or be beaten. Organized by DayDayUp and the Danish Chamber of Commerce, this event was aimed at how foreign companies can connect with and leverage on the tech and startups in China. Four panelists representing different areas shared their views: Ida Jeng (Senior tech advisor, Danish Embassy), Richard Robinson (a serial entrepreneur and founding partner of nHack), Karen Jing Guo (investor, VP of Galaxy Internet) and Cui Lin (Innovation Manager and Global Tech Scouting at Airbus China). Large Swedish companies already have R&D centers across China and it is not uncommon to see Fortune 500 companies (including some Swedish) starting their own incubators, innovation labs or venture capital arms in China in recent years. As a foreign company, bring what you are good at, but also co-found and involve a local person in your core team who can navigate the landscape. In the end, having the right connections and partner could be the most important success factor.


Key opinion leader (KOL) marketing

How can companies cut through the noise and reach their target customers in this massive market? The Swedish Chamber of Commerce (SwedCham) invited Elijah Whaley from PARKLU (leading digital platform for China’s social influencers) to a breakfast seminar on the topic of KOL and influencer marketing, which is a new way to use digital and social media as marketing platforms. Being on the user side of social apps, it was very insightful for me to understand the marketing perspective of it, especially the local apps with short-videos and live streaming that are growing in popularity in China. These kinds of digital platforms can generate a much higher level of customer engagement than the traditional brand sales campaigns if used strategically.


Changing China: A 20-year perspective on doing business in China

How do you run a business in a market that is fastest growing economy in the world? Scott Kronick, the President and CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations in Asia-Pacific was invited by Peking University MBA Speaker series to share his personal experience on navigating and mastering the business landscape in China over the past two decades. It’s an inspiring story of how he built the organization from 10 to 200 employees!


Podcast tips on the topic of tech in China:

Den digitala draken (Swedish)

China Tech Talk (English) by TechNode


That’s all for now, stay tuned for more!


Anna Zhan