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Entering China: Expert Advice from 10 Industry Leaders

China’s economy keeps attracting global attention. The fast-growing consumer market, rising middle class, financial reforms, and demand for services lure businesses from all over the world. Some succeed but many fail to enter the Middle Kingdom. I asked 10 industry experts what advice they'd like to give to companies that want to work with China. And here is what they say.

中国经济一直吸引着全球的目光。快速增长的消费市场,中产阶级的崛起,有消费能力的人群,金融改革,对服务的需求增长,吸引了来自世界各地的企业。他们中有些成功了,但许多没能成功进入中国市场。我问了10位行业专家,他们对想与中国合作的公司有什么建议。以下是他们的想法。

This article I originally prepared for the Ukrainian Association of Sinologist magazine. Below is an English and Chinese copy of the content.

这篇文章是我最初为乌克兰汉学家协会杂志准备的。以下内容皆为中英双语。

Cathy Zheng

Exchange & Cooperation Department VD

Shanghai Technology Innovation Center (STIC)

China is fast, and the Chinese are very hardworking. If you consider commercial landing in China, bring the technology or product that is unique enough and the team that has enough perseverance.

郑碧

交流合作部副部长

上海市科技创业中心

中国的速度很快、中国的企业很拼,如果您考虑来中国做创新合作和商业落地,希望是:技术或产品足够独特;人员团队足够有毅力。


Wei Zhou
Funder & CEO
XNode
China is the world's second-largest market, but that doesn't mean that doing business in China will be easy. The market is fiercely competitive in almost all industries, however, nothing is impossible. The startup and tech ecosystem in China is very much on its own, therefore be as Chinese as you can, and learn from locals.
周炜
创始人
创极无限

中国是世界第二大市场,但这并不意味着在中国做生意会很容易,几乎所有行业的市场竞争都很激烈,然而没有什么是不可能的。中国的初创企业和科技生态系统相对独立,因此,你要尽可能的中国本土化,并向本土企业学习。


Heather Fu
Incubation Dept PM
Caohejing Hi-Tech Park Innovation Center
The Chinese market is one of the most dynamic markets in the world, with unlimited opportunities. But opportunities often coexist with challenges, and the complexity of the Chinese market can sometimes exceed your imagination. There is a product/technology that has been successfully verified in the domestic market, and a certain understanding of the Chinese market, coupled with a partner who can integrate local resources, will be a condition to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.
傅锴
项目经理
上海漕河泾新兴技术开发区科技创业中心

中国市场是全球最有活力的市场之一,蕴藏着无限机会。但是机会往往和挑战并存,中国市场的复杂性有时会超出你的想象。有一项在本国市场取得成功验证的产品/技术,对中国市场有一定的了解,再加上一个能整合本土资源的合伙人,会是在中国市场立足的条件。


Tim Luan

Director

Innoway

Find a reliable and qualified local partner with matching capabilities to open up the Chinese market. Don't worry too much about intellectual property issues, especially at the early stages of the project. Take action first and follow the market and customers.

栾天

总监

中关村创业大街

寻找到一个可靠、能力匹配的优质本地合伙人开辟中国市场,不用太担忧知识产权问题, 尤其在项目早期,先行动起来,跟着市场、客户的声音走。

Howard Wang
Assistant General Manager
Caohejing Innovation Center
Foreign entrepreneurs have created many successful commercial cases in China. There are various factors behind these successes, but one thing in common is that they all have a suitable local partner. China is a relationship-based society. Although the younger generation is more inclined to free-market and modern business rules. However, a suitable local partner can effectively break down cultural barriers, establish a local network, and obtain market resources.
王钟澔
总经理室 | 总经理助理
上海漕河泾开发区赵巷新兴产业经济发展有限公司

外国的创业者们在中国缔造了一个又一个商业成功的案例。这些成功的背后有各种各样的因素,但有一点是共同的,那就是他们都有一个合适的本土合作伙伴。中国是一个人情社会。虽然更多的年轻一代更倾向于自由市场意识以及现代商业规则。但是,一个合适的本土合作伙伴可以有效破除文化壁垒,建立本地网络,获取市场资源。

James Chou

Managing Director & CEO

Microsoft for Startups

Find a local partner who can help you navigate the complicated business environment, go-to-market, and support your customers. You need an extremely good lawyer to help you to set up the right legal entity (rep office, JV, or WOFE), to advise you on negotiating with your local partners, protecting your IP., etc. Be patient and do plan to stay here for the long term. It takes time to build the relationship, understand the market, even customize the product for the local market. Hire the local trusted employees. It will pay off in the long term. China is a super competitive market, the experiences you learn here will also make you more competitive somewhere else whether it is business model innovation, close to the supply chain, its speed, and scale.

周健

CEO兼董事总经理

微软加速器 | 北亚地区

合适的本地合作伙伴很重要,他可以帮你应对复杂的商业环境,进入市场,并为客户提供得力支持。找一位异常优秀的律师来帮你建立合适的法人实体(代表处,合资企业或外商独资企业),为你提供咨询服务,以与当地合作伙伴进行谈判,保护你的IP等。请有耐心,并计划长期留下来。建立关系,了解市场甚至产品本地化都很花费时间。雇用值得信任的当地员工。从长远来看,将得到回报。中国是一个竞争十分激烈的市场,你在这里学到的经验还将使你在其他方面更具竞争力,无论是商业模式创新,接近供应链,还是商业速度和规模。


Allan Chou
Founder
RAIDiCal
The biggest problem for overseas tech startups to develop in China is basically the lack of preliminary preparation. What kind of preparations do these companies need to do?
Market research. Is your company suitable for the Chinese market? Many founders only think that the Chinese market is huge and they think that the project is good and should be directly implemented. Usually, these predictions and expectations are not realistic. The most appropriate preliminary preparation should be to conduct very precise market and industry research. To do it in China today is not as difficult as it was ten years ago. With a lot of data, the biggest challenge is to understand what is useful for the project and what is just noise. The ultimate challenge is understanding this data and how to sort out some meaningful analysis.
Expert visits. Before the epidemic pandemic? most entrepreneurs would pay a visit themselves or use the opportunity of roadshows in China to conduct industry research and visit experts as preparation for landing. Of course, this practice has been put on hold for now, but it is still an indispensable part (of the preparation work). The landing plan must be communicated and consulted with the local experts and industry elites, to get the most accurate understanding of the local market.
The main goal of the above preparation is to confirm whether you and the company have the ability and opportunity to enter China. We always believe that the core goal of a successful project comes from preparation, preparation, and preparation!
周立玮
创始人
RAIDiCal
海外科技创业团队到中国发展最大问题基本上都是前期准备不够,那这些创业团队都需要做哪些准备工作?
市场调研:到底您的创业项目是否适合中国市场?有很多创始人只觉得中国市场庞大而且自己觉得项目不错应该可以直接落地,通常这些预测和幻想都不现实。最适当的前期准备应该是进行非常精确的市场和行业调研,今天在中国寻找和瞄准的赛道已经不像十年前那么难到手,数据多多可是最大的挑战就是了解哪些内容对项目有用哪些只是噪音,最终障碍也就是翻译和如何整理出一些有意义的分析。
专家拜访:在疫情前大部分有计划的创业者会自费或利用到中国路演机会进行行业调研和拜访专家作为着陆准备,这个环节当然有所改变可还是不可缺少的环节,落地计划中必须和当地专家与行业精英对应取经。

以上准备工作的主要目标是确认是否您和公司有能力与机会进军中国,我们永远相信成功项目的核心目标来自准备、准备、再准备!

Stella Zheng

Head of China

500 Startups

The Internet companies we invested in, Canva and Applyboard, have achieved good results after entering China. Therefore, I think it is possible for cross-border startups to succeed in China. However, first of all, before entering the Chinese market, you must determine whether your product is what the Chinese market desires and whether you will have a competitive advantage in developing in China. The competition in China is very fierce. For example, companies we invest in overseas want to enter the Chinese market in order to gain more users and higher valuations, but I usually advise them to think carefully. Secondly, if you already have a very clear plan, I think the most important thing for these cross-border startups is the local team. It is unrealistic to rely entirely on external Chinese partners. You must attract a capable and experienced local person to become a part of your team. Of course, if you can find local or cross-border investors to support you, that is also a very good choice.

郑思达

中国区负责人

500 Startups

我们投资的互联网公司Canva和Applyboard都在进入中国后取得了不错的成绩,所以,我认为跨境初创企业在中国获得成功不是不可能的事情。但是,首先,在进入中国市场前,必须先明确你的产品是否是中国市场渴求的,你来中国发展是否会有竞争优势。中国的竞争非常激烈,例如我们在海外投资的公司想进入中国市场,以此获得更多的用户和更高的估值,但是我通常会建议他们考虑清楚。其次,如果你已经有非常明确的计划了,我认为,对这些跨境的初创公司而言,最关键的是本地团队。完全依赖中国的合作伙伴是不现实的,必须要吸引一个有能力的、有经验的本地人成为你的合伙人。当然,如果你能找到本地或是跨境的投资方去支持你,那也是非常好的选择。


Sophie Yao
China GM
Pegasus Tech Venture
Do the market research and try to find a trustable local partner in China first before landing your business here.
姚晓菲
中国区总经理
Pegasus Tech Venture

在开展中国业务前,先做好市场调研,并找到可信赖的当地合作伙伴。

Peter Yang
CEO
PRESHARES
I think the founders must have an in-depth understanding of China's business culture, establish reliable local partners, and further understand the uniqueness of the Chinese market. The company can not only focus on its own products and solutions, it should have a profound understanding of the needs of Chinese users, which will be the best way to develop the products and solutions.
杨志宏
首席执行官
PRESHARES

我想创始人首先必须要深入了解中国的商业文化,并建立可靠的本地合作伙伴。要进一步了解中国市场的独特性, 创业公司不能只关注自己的产品 首先必须要深入了解中国用户的需求 只有深入了解中国的用户,才能尽快开发出最好的产品和方案。

___

As we see, most of them are saying the same things. China's market is complex, very different, and extremely competitive. To make it right in China:

1. prioritize this market

2. customize and localize products and services specifically for China

3. local partners and the local team is crucial for the company success

It seems there is nothing new. But everyone is emphasizing it again and again. That's how important it is. Yet too often, it's simply overlooked.

如我们所见,大家所说的核心内容都是大致相同的。中国的市场是复杂截然不同,且竞争非常激烈的。在中国正确的做法是:

1. 优先考虑这个市场

2. 专门针对中国定制和本地化产品和服务

3. 当地合作伙伴和团队对于公司的成功至关重要

虽然看起来没有任何新的内容,但是每个人都一次又一次地强调。这些点是非常重要的。但是很多时候,它们都被忽视了。

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