We were with China Accelerator in Shanghai, the main startup accelerator in China, where we had the opportunity of talking to Todd Embley, its Program Director.

A brief introduction about startup accelerators: they… Accelerate. In exchange of a stake in the startup they offer education and access to mentorship. They work with promotions of (commonly) 3 months which normally finishes in a Demo Day or Pitch. Maybe, one of the best well known is Y Combinator, with alumni such as Dropbox, Disquss, Reddit, Codecademy or Scribd.


And below you can read a summary of the main ideas (and some points we left outside the video):

An Advice for entrepreneurs: don’t come to China (ok, keep reading!)

Before coming to China, you must think about it twice. You should come with resources, customers (clients in case you are a B2B) and a strong team. Chinese market is hard. Yes, it is a big (really big) market, but it is competitive and has its own rules (which you will need to know). Todd gave us a couple of successful examples of startups in China (this is not in the video, so pay attention):

  • LinkedIn: they redesigned their site from scratch. It looks like the LinkedIn we know (and love) but it has been built from the ground. Something necessary to make everything work properly. All we know Google is blocked in China, but you may forget that using Google Fonts is not the best idea for your web…
  • Uber: they came here with enough resources to create a new team, make sure they understand company’s vision & mission and let them in charge.

And of course, you can’t forget the copycat problem: if what you are doing is interesting for BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) they will copy in one day. So you better have marketing budget and a strong user base, just in case you need to go to the war.

“Do or Do Not. There is no try” it is not the best for Startups in China (or anywhere, but Chinese people tend to think like that)

Chinese entrepreneurs tend to have an idea, get the money and the team, and work hard until the have the “perfect” product. They don’t validate the idea, they don’t fail cheap & quick. That is considered not honarable, so they prefer to go all in.
Todd recommended us to go back to basics : build, measure, learn. Lean Startup 101:

Build, Measure, Learn: The Feedback Loop - Lean Startup Methodology. Something really important for Startups in China

Build, Measure, Learn: The Feedback Loop – Lean Startup Methodology. Something really important for Startups in China


Startups in China: please, Think Big

We are not here to give them fish, we are not here even to teach them how to fish. We are here to show them how to build a fishing company

Inspiring words. That is what accelerators do: put you on track to generate a business which will be interesting to investors (and for you, hopefully).

Chinese or Western workers? Which is the best city for Startups in China?

More things that did not make in the final cut but should be remarked:

Finding a job in a Startup in China is not really difficult for a westerner. Basically, westerner are cheaper than Chinese and more autonomous (less micromanaging required). It’s not the firs time we listen something like this.

Shanghai is the ideal city for a startup for varied reasons, one of them is the price level: it is cheap city compared to San Francisco or Hong Kong. It is also a very international city, the most international city in China. Something interesting if your product or service is for different countries and you want to try with a small sample.

If you want to learn more about Startups in China you can take a look the China Accelerator Podcast, it is really inspiring and useful.

+ Posts