Overseas start-ups seek opportunities, investors, in the Chinese market

By Yu Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/25 19:03:39

When you hear "start-up capital of the world," what comes to you mind first? Silicon Valley definitely. Yes, it is where young tech entrepreneurs go to get funded and develop their business. But Norway, a country known for its natural scenery and oceanic resources, has also been witnessing stunning growth in tech investments. The number of investments in Norway increased from 30 in 2015 to 87 in 2017, according to the latest data from Nordic Web. The amount of capital invested in Norway grew 102 percent between 2015 to 2017.

Start-up ecosystem

A number of entrepreneurs, investors, academics, corporate managers and start-ups got together recently in Bergen, Norway, to attend Startup Extreme 2018, an event aiming to build a stronger and more professional start-up ecosystem in Norway. This year's theme was "Where the world meets the Norwegian startup ecosystem."

When asked why they created the event in 2015, Maja Adriaensen, co-founder & CEO of Startup Extreme & Angel Challenge, said they "cared about the start-up scene in Norway and wanted to showcase it to the international community."

Adriaensen added that they hope to accelerate investors and start-ups in Norway to help make more investments happen, and that thousands of start-ups will enter the scaling phase in the near future.

A total of 80 investors and 120 start-ups from different countries and regions attended the three-day event. The Global Times Metro Shanghai met some start-ups there eager to attract the attention of Chinese investors. All of the start-ups we interviewed were full of passion and enthusiasm to expand their businesses.

"It's a perfect device for you to have in your travels and it's loved by kids," 26-year-old Eirik Wahlstroem from Norway, co-founder of  MovieMask, said during a demo at the event in Norway. MovieMask is a portable cinema that can utilize all the content on people's smartphones, with four-times the resolution of other mobile-driven VR glasses.

Wahlstroem started his business in Norway, where they cooperated with some of the best opticians globally to create unique optics. After 30 prototypes and more than 1,000 user tests in Norway, they launched the first beta-product in December of 2016 in the Norwegian market. They are still developing new and improved products based on feedback.

"We provide a premium cinematic experience in 2D, but do so at the cost of not being able to show 3D. So if you like watching movies and series, you should get a MovieMask," Wahlstroem said.

The product won a "Most Promising Start-up" prize in China in April this year. Wahlstroem received pre-seed investments from Norway and are now closing another seed round. Wahlstroem said the numbers are confidential at the moment.

"We are looking to raise a series-A next year, where we'll also be looking for Chinese investors," he noted.

Entering China

"We have been cooperating with several suppliers in Shenzhen [South China's Guangdong Province], and have built up good relationships with our suppliers," Wahlstroem told the Global Times. "We are not looking for a place to build a factory in China right now, but we are in dialogue with several distributors on how to best enter the Chinese market."

Wahlstroem regarded the event as a good opportunity to meet people and establish a healthy network. The three-day event, including pre-event activities, indeed provided many opportunities for attendees to communicate with each other.

Tony Chen, co-founder of  Manolin, echoed this opinion. "Overall, the event was really beneficial for us. Given that we're from the United States, we haven't had great access to Norwegian investors, so the event was really helpful in that and expanding our network," Chen said.

Chen is a 27-year-old Chinese-American who quit his well-paying job to work on his own ideas. He said he and his partner have been working for a couple of years to help farmers keep their farms healthier through the power of data; they formally launched their company in February of this year.

He is fortunate to have received an investment from Hatch, the world's first accelerator program focusing on the aquaculture industry, worth NOK 600,000 ($73,449). They are presently working in the BTO office (Bergen's technology transfer office), meaning they will have more opportunities to be known by other potential investors.

Chen hopes to find more ways to access the Chinese market. "We don't currently have a great idea of how start-ups operate in China, and we also don't have that many connections to make an entry," Chen told the Global Times, adding that "we understand how important the Chinese market can be for us, so it is more of just figuring out the timing given our resources."

Best fintech pitch

Chen explained that starting a new company requires a lot of effort. "At the beginning, finding people to talk with to share our idea is difficult."

Olle Kronvall, start-up and growth specialist of DNB, which was one of the sponsors for this event, agrees that it is unique and helpful in connecting businesses with investors.

"Gathering like-minded people and forcing them to do activities and to network creates a super unique atmosphere," Kronvall said. "For start-ups, I would say that networking is the most important part. The money is out there, you just have to find the right investor for your start-up."

Auka was chosen as the most compelling fintech pitch at the event. The company's CEO, Daniel Döderlein, created the first mobile payments technology in Scandinavia and launched the first mobile wallet in Norway.

"This type of win further validates our business model and vision. It certainly makes it easier to start conversations with future and potential partners and investors," Lydia Lobb, head of International PR, Auka, told the Global Times.

In Scandinavia, mobile payment apps similar to China's Alipay and WeChat Pay are also popular. In Norway, 65 percent of the population is actively using such services, while in Denmark the number is even higher, according to Lobb.

Like Alipay and WeChat Pay in China, Auka is one of the tech companies changing the old way of making payments in Norway. Norwegians are used to credit cards or cash.

Some VCs suggest that new start-ups must constantly be raising money and should be prepared for investors by being able to explain their vision to customs. It is also important to hire someone who has experiences in order to reduce risks, they said.

Maria Amelie, co-founder at Startup Migrants speaks at the event. Photo: Courtesy of Fredrik Steen


Attendees at the opening ceremony of the event.Photo: Courtesy of Fredrik Steen


Participants communicate with each other. Photo: Courtesy of Fredrik Steen


A man holds a flag. Photo: Courtesy of Fredrik Steen

Newspaper headline: Startup Extreme 2018


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