There’s never been a better time to seek business opportunities in China
China can be a tough market to enter, however it is far from being as impenetrable as some startup leaders may believe. Yes, there are cultural attitudes and government roadblocks to overcome, but new sectors and opportunities are opening up in China all the time.
Raising investment through grants or equity, outsourcing manufacturing and establishing joint ventures to sell products and services are all becoming easier. Technology is growing rapidly in China and many opportunities for businesses looking to expand into the region are on offer, with cleantech, biotech and medtech being in high demand.
Among those spotting the opportunities in China early on, biotech company ANCON Technologies wanted to find investors, strategic partners and distributors.
In 2017, ANCON joined the Envestors’ China programme, which included participation in exploratory road trips in China and inclusion in several technology competitions in the biggest cities in China.
The same year, ANCON took part in the Envestors One Belt, One Roadshow, putting them in front of crucial strategic investors. These included listed corporates, leading venture capital firms and government backed technology transfer investment organisations. ANCON won the China-UK Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, held in Chengdu, an event that brought 3,000 projects and 70,000 participants in front of 450 experts.
In 2020, ANCON was a semi finalist in the Global Internet Competition 'Straight to Wuzhen'. The World Internet Conference is hosted annually by the Cyberspace Administration of China and Zhejiang Provincial People’s Government.
Taking part in the 2020 contest has opened a lot of doors for the company. They’ve been able to meet potential partners and secure introductions to local players.
“The biggest help you can get from participating in competitions in China is getting the right introductions. Whatever your product is, you’ll get a chance to be introduced to local experts to help you set up in China,” said Bing Tian, Director of Far East Development for ANCON Technologies.
Using biomarkers, ANCON has created Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) application technologies that have the capability to identify the patterns of volatile organic compounds: they can detect trace amounts of compounds such as explosives, narcotics or other chemicals. There are three aspects of its technology applications: air-pollution detection, anti-terrorism and more recently COVID-19 fast testing.
Currently their ground-breaking AI and machine learning is part of a system to screen and diagnose COVID-19 through a non-invasive breath test. They see China as both a rollout market and an invaluable partner in completing their research on how biomarkers can be used to detect COVID-19 and a number of other diseases.
Exposure to strategic partners has already secured ANCON a local distribution partner in China. Due to the need for rollout in a large market, the partnership could be vital to the company’s work on COVID-19 detection.
“Before COVID-19, our main target was lung cancer. When the pandemic hit, the first thing we did was try to get a biomarker profile of this new disease. That requires, first of all, that we collect as much data as possible and then have our AI build up the profile as quickly as possible. We could potentially target over 400 diseases. For each one we need get the correct amount of data. China's always your first target because it has the biggest population and, as the health care system in China is getting better and better, it’s getting easier to track specific patients’ data,“ Bing Tian noted.
"Transparency of government procedure is one of the main concerns for companies looking to expand to China. However, the country is aiming to attract foreign startups through a number of government-funded programs. Municipalities like Shanghai and Guangzhou are competing with each other to create opportunities for foreign companies, offering grants, funds and tax relief.”
Achieving success in China takes planning and effort, but scaling China’s Great Wall of opportunity is achievable, especially for startups with a partner offering experience in successfully securing strategic Chinese investment and M&A partners.