JD to provide incubator for startups and bubble tea for all

Jing Gao

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com opened a milk tea house in Shenzhen on Sunday. In addition to offering the popular beverage in China, the JD+ Smart Milk Tea House will also showcase digital devices, provide office space for startups, and host events for entrepreneurs, a JD spokesperson told the Shenzhen Economic Daily.

Like many other businesses targeting startups the JD+ Smart Milk Tea House has also adopted the “store in the front, office in the back” design. Milk tea in various flavors is sold on the first floor. Open space offices and conference rooms sufficient to hold 200 people are housed on the second and third floors for incubating early-stage startups.

Wang Zhenhui, Director of JD.com’s Smart Business Division, said to Xinhua News Agency that his division will pool financial and human resources worth more than 10 million RMB to help 100 smart businesses overcome their “growing pains” and bring innovation to the market.

So far, nine startups have entered the incubator. Products on display include a smart exercise bike supporting gaming modes and cloud storage, an eye mask that enhances sleep quality, and a smart bartender that monitors alcohol concentration.

Though JD is the second largest e-commerce platform in China after Alibaba in terms of revenue, the U.S.-listed company posted a net loss of 510 million RMB (US$82.3 million) for the second quarter of 2015, and has not yet turned a profit.

In May, JD launched its first ever Smart Milk Tea House in Beijing’s Zhongguancun area, also known as the Silicon Valley of China. Shenzhen is another important IT city in China which, in addition to hosting the technology-affiliated Shenzhen Stock Exchange, has great advantages in terms of its hardware and supply chain capabilities, and has nurtured an ecosystem for tech startups, Liu Xiangfeng, Director of the Incubator Department at JD, told tech blog iFanr.

Milk Tea Girl and JD’s boss Liu Qiangdong Photo from Sina.

Although not officially confirmed by JD, the name “Milk Tea House” is widely believed to be a tribute to Zhang Zetian, the newly-wed wife of JD founder and chairman Liu Qiangdong. Zhang, an Internet celebrity and national sweetheart, first came into the spotlight at the age of 16 when a photo of her holding a bottle of milk tea became viral in 2009. The “Milk Tea Girl” met with Liu in 2014. Their high-profile romance was speculated as a publicity stunt employed by JD to attract media attention.

(Feature photo from NetEase)

Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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