Silicon Valley is a shrine for pioneers of high-tech innovation and development, nurturing many world-class tech companies like Google, Apple and Intel. China’s fast development in science and technology has also been widely acknowledged, with a number of tech giants emerging including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu.
The founder and CEO of AllChinaTech, Wu Nan, moderated a panel on hot tech trends and the globalization of Chinese companies, held at the 2016 FTChinese Annual Forum in Hangzhou last Friday.
Speakers included Piero Scaruffi, author of A History of Silicon Valley; Dirk Eschenbacher, Founding Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Zanadu.cn, a Chinese lifestyle travel platform; Joyce Zhang, CTO of Guazi.com, a consumer-to-consumer used car trading platform; Zang Zhongtang, Vice President of Ucar, a chauffeured car service provider; Dong Huizhi, Co-founder and COO of Video++, a video SaaS platform; and Zhang Xiaoting, CEO of Chinese investment company Ming Capital.
Piero Scaruffi’s 10 tech trends
Piero Scaruffi, the main speaker, gave his own analysis on what he sees as the top 10 tech trends in Silicon Valley. Among these are social media, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, gene technology, blockchain technology, wearable devices, nanotechnology, Virtual Reality (VR), 3D printing, AI, and robotics.
With VR, he emphasized that the technology was not new, but the development of products and applications is not yet mature. Conversely, he noted that in the areas of nanotechnology and gene technology, the possibilities are huge but there still remains much work to be done in terms of research.
Scaruffi predicted that 3D printing would be especially influential in areas that already have substantial manufacturing industries, like China and Germany. He also mentioned aged care as an important application for robotics, something which will become more and more relevant to China in the future.
With the IoT, Scaruffi emphasized that there are no dominant players in this area, so the potential for new entrants is huge.
Scaruffi’s speech was followed by the panel discussion.
Wu Nan: Who is the hero in the story of Chinese tech?
Joyce Zhang: I will vote for Jack Ma (executive chairman of Chinese tech giant Alibaba). I think that all technologies must eventually solve practical problems; at the same time, all businesses and affiliates of Alibaba are backed by powerful technologies. Overall Ma is very important to the Chinese tech industry.
Dong huizhi: I will also say Jack Ma. First, Ma has brought a big change to Chinese society by changing the way people do business. Second, Alibaba has helped the growth of many startups and entrepreneurs like myself with newly available data and technologies.
Dirk Eschenbacher: I would say Fritz Demopoulos (founder of Chinese leading online travel agency Qunar.com). There are few foreigners among the founders or co-founders of Chinese companies, but Demopoulos is one of them. He understands Chinese consumers and Chinese culture; you can see how this has driven his success.
Zang Zhongtang: I vote for Allen Zheng (Zheng Xiaolong). Zheng was one of the earliest technical entrepreneurs in the Internet circle in China; he is the founder of China’s leading social network, WeChat. His ideas for WeChat were earlier than similar foreign apps like Line and WhatsApp. His important innovations were in personal communications and the structure of Chinese media.
Zhang Xiaoting: I will also choose Jack Ma. Ma has set examples with his enterprise management and partnership system for many star investors. He has brought convenience to the lives of common people with his online shopping platforms like Taobao and Tmall. Every person can become his or her own boss using these platforms.
Wu Nan: What about Chinese companies going overseas?
Piero Scaruffi: People in Silicon Valley are not so interested in Chinese companies, because actually they care about nothing but Silicon Valley itself. Chinese tech companies are less known to Silicon Valley than the other way around because they are worse in expanding and promoting their own brands.
Joyce Zhang: Chinese companies must create their core competitiveness before they go overseas and promote their brand there. This applies to both big companies like Huawei and Wanda Group, as well as to successful apps like WeChat.
Zang Zhongtang: First, I don’t think it is easy for Chinese companies to go overseas using the technological approach, especially for those in the tech and Internet areas. On the other hand, it might be a good choice for them to go overseas if they can come up with something new in their business model.
Dirk Eschenbacher: Cultural differences are a big problem to both Chinese companies going overseas and Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook coming to China. I think Chinese companies should do a better job in listening to and understanding what the local consumers are thinking.
Zhang Xiaoting: Chinese companies going overseas are just like Chinese actors and actresses going to Hollywood. The most important thing is that they have certain popularity among local consumers or audiences, this is even more important than their products and services or acting ability.
Some of the well-known investors and investment companies in China just cannot find good projects to invest in. That’s where one of our advantages lies, because we have stars as investors, and they have better popularity.
Dong Huizhi: There are three problems against Chinese companies going overseas, especially to America: cultural differences, negative impressions towards Chinese brands, and different patent systems.
There are also three questions to ask yourself before you go overseas: What exact market you want to enter and how will you profit from it? For example, Google helped China’s leading mobile Internet company Cheetah Mobile into Android. Who will be your guide into the local market? What are your true abilities?
(Top photo from pixabay.com)