Startups get a leg-up from China |

Startups get a leg-up from China

Central Europe Innovation Centre, Dolní Břežany
Central Europe Innovation Centre, Dolní Břežany

Daniel Novák

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The door has been unlocked for emerging Czech technology and online business owners who wish to access some Chinese funding. Central Bohemian Innovation Centre [SIC] recently inked a strategic cooperation agreement with a major startup incubator based in China’s Sichuan province.

The deal is part of a giant project that is rolling out a modern version of the ancient Silk Road. It aims to put in place infrastructure to support trade links between China and Europe. “The cooperation’s fundamental objective is to exchange experience in supporting and incubating startup businesses,” said Ivo Říha, head of SIC.

Without turning to official bodies, Prague-based start-up Sphericam 2, a developer of cameras used in the creation of virtual reality, lately secured an inflow of Chinese capital. The startup received USD 5m from Chinese investment fund Kignet Technologies, specialised website CzechCrunch reported.

However, its success is rather the exception than the rule. “There are preciously few Czech startups making an appearance here. Every once in a while someone does come but we are yet to see a business wanting to establish an office and run a business here. What is needed is an official representation, an institution backed by the government that would be able to see things through,” said Jan Šmejkal, a section head at Startup Grind, a China-based international community.

Things could move forward at a greater pace with the recently bolstered firepower of Chinese venture capital funds. The Chinese government has invested more than USD 300bn in the funds this year as part of its attempt at shifting the core of the Chinese economy from industry to consumption and the service sector.

There are however some sceptical voices when it comes to Chinese support for startup businesses. “They dream about creating entrepreneurs if they pour enough money in. But it can also end up with the [Chinese] government facing a huge bill,” Bloomberg news agency reported Gary Rischel, founder of leading Chinese venture capital company Qiming Venture Partners, as saying.

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