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Startups look to target overseas opportunities

Some participants in the Russian Skolkovo Startup Competition get information about Emokit’s emotion detection app. [Photo by Ren Qi / china daily]

More Chinese startup companies are exploring the United States or other overseas markets, although various challenges exist, say startup company officials.

“For me, participating in foreign competition or delivering speeches on the overseas stage means a lot to my company,” said Wei Qingchen, CEO and founder of Emokit Tech Co, a company that in its early stage of development took part in an overseas competition and was able to showcase itself to an overseas audience. “By showing the company overseas, I met lots of new partners.”

For instance, Wei said, his company at present enjoys a close relationship with a Pakistani IT company. He met company officials during the competition overseas.

Cooperating with the Institute of Psychology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Emokit wrote a software development kit that recognizes the motion of users, their actions or facial expressions.

Wei said he attached great importance to the attention from foreign customers and media.

Emokit is now settling in at Tsinghua University Science Park, which was developed and is operated by Tus-Holdings Co. The park has more than 400 members, including several startup companies and institutions. With the help of the TusPark, more Chinese startups are now able to go abroad to promote themselves.

Three years ago, Tus-Holdings, Chinese investment company Northern Light Venture Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank established Innospring Incubator. It was the first incubator for both Chinese and American startups to explore overseas markets. Now more than 50 startups have joined the incubator.

This month, TusPark officials, along with those from the three Chinese startups, went to Moscow for the Skolkovo Startup Competition. This competition had great support from the Russian government, and even Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev showed up. As a representative of Chinese startups, Wei was able to chat with Medvedev.

Herbert Chen, the executive vice-president of Tus-Holdings, pointed out that the biggest concern of Chinese startups at their science park is the language barrier.

“For instance, we along with three local startup companies went to Moscow for the Skolkovo Startup Competition. Although the CEOs had Russian-speaking assistants, when some investors wanted to know something, they found it very difficult and inconvenient to have a deep talk via a translator.”

Still, Tus-Holdings has great confidence in their startups ability to go global. Sophia Shang, the foreign affairs manager, said the cooperation of Chinese startups and foreign enterprises is mutual.

“Now we are getting in touch with a European environmental protection enterprise,” she said. “We are seeking to introduce European environmental technology into China. The project has a bright future as this industry is well developed in Europe, and meanwhile China is in need of large-scale environmental governance.”

Wei said he had decided to take the global strategy as soon as the company was founded. By talking with leading experts and foreign counterparts, the company could obtain advanced technology within the industry as well as some potential cooperation opportunities.

In November, Wei went to the Silicon Valley in the US and made a speech about his emotion detection app code at Santa Clara Convention Center. During this visit he met Zhang Xuan, who was doing research in psychology. Zhang found what Emokit did was what she always wanted to do, so she helped the company to integrate data from foreign research institutes.

Also thanks to the advanced emotion detection SDK and a good speech in Silicon Valley, Emokit started to cooperate with MIT. Experts from MIT provided professional advice on how to improve the app.

Since then, Wei has grown more convinced about his global strategy. In late November, Emokit participated in the Slush World Founder and Investor Competition to compete with more than 200 projects from all over the world. It won the championship title.