5 Reasons Shanghai 2019 is the Place to Start Your Chinese Journey

The road to China can be an intimidating one for international startups, but like many investment decisions, the opportunities can far outweigh the risks.

As the countdown for 4YFN Shanghai 2019 begins, we wanted to look at why there has never been a better time or place to make your mark in China and why Shanghai is a perfect starting place.

For Chinese startups, 4YFN is a great opportunity to connect with an overseas audience. But for international startups, it is an amazing chance to connect with the Chinese ecosystem and start breaking down the barriers to entering the market, following the steps of giants like LinkedIn and TuneIn who have taken China by a storm. [1]

Here’s why:

1. The historic port city of Shanghai retains is global dominance as a trading outpost. The merchants and the goods flowing through the city both inbound and outbound may have evolved, but as a major trading hub, it hasn’t just maintained its relevance but grown it in the way only the Chinese can. It is now a futurist mega-metropolis of over 25 million people served by impressive, even mind-bending infrastructure. It is the front door to mainland China and welcomes visitors who come knocking.

2. The Shanghai temperature gauge. Relationships are everything in China and developing them at trade shows is a typical starting point there. It is impossible to understate the importance of relationships in doing business in this market. China holds great opportunities for startups spreading their international wings and there’s no better way to take the temperature of the market than to get on the ground talking to people, pitching your business and showing off your product or service.

3. No rainbows, but a fintech pot of gold. Shanghai is the fifth largest global financial hub in the world.[2] The global dominance of the yuan is growing and supplanting the US dollar as a global trading currency and Shanghai is the spiritual home of this giant. Unsurprisingly, this has given rise to a thriving domestic fintech sector.

About a third of the leading 50 fintech startups in China are based in Shanghai.[3] They benefit from a thriving pipeline of investment and huge growth opportunities. There are still a large number of unbanked Chinese and low barriers to adoption (Chinese consumers are prone to parting with their personal data quite willingly). Tech giants are incorporating financial services into their products and Alipay and WeChat have already transformed daily life in China. If you love fintech, get to love Shanghai!

4. Shangh-AI. China is going deeper, faster. Recent reports indicate that China is about to overtake the US as /the leading market for AI research.[4] AI-based technologies are widely believed to be the next disruptive innovations that will change everything. There might be a lot of competition in China, but it is growing the market there bigger and faster making it an ideal for deep tech – and we mean real deep tech. In China, there were four times as many AI-related patent applications than in the US last year and three-times as many crypto and blockchain related patent applications.[5]

5. Unicorns fly in China. We pride ourselves on being unicorn spotters at 4YFN and it is certainly the right place to come to see them in their fledgling stages. There might be a lot more startups in shows like 4YFN Barcelona, but China is storming ahead as a natural habitat for unicorns. In 2014, just 14% of unicorns worldwide came from China and 61% came from the US. Through to 2018, there was a 21% rise in unicorns from China to around 35% of the worldwide population,[6] while the number of unicorns from the US fell by a nearly identical proportion. This is an excellent reason to come and try to spot unicorns in China and where better than at one of the world’s most influential startup events?


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