《华尔街日报》专访龙宇:为什么前BAT员工能搅动中国创业格局?
Editor : date : 2015.04.16

原标题:Q&A: Venture Capital Chief On China’s New Wave Of Tech Startups

Former employees of China’s largest Internet companies are playing major roles as entrepreneurs and investors in the country’s booming technology startup scene.

A major factor behind the rise of these startups is the rapid increase in private funding. China’s tech sector raised $7.2 billion in private funding deals last year, compared to $1.6 billion in 2013, according to Hong Kong-based Centre for Asia Private Equity Research, with the number of deals rising to 263 from 136.

In a recent interview, Annabelle Long, managing partner of Bartelsmann Asia Investments, a venture capital arm of Germany’s Bertelsmann Group, talked about the roles played by former employees of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Her venture-capital firm has invested in more than 40 Chinese startups, including Mogujie, a social e-commerce company founded by a former Alibaba employee that could be valued at $2 billion based on its current funding round.

Edited excerpts:


WSJ:  Why are there many startups created by former employees of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu?

Ms. Long: Talented young people from Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and other established Chinese tech companies are motivated to start their own ventures. And there is ample capital in the market now to fund new ideas. Those people have already participated in the growth of successful companies, and they are confident that they can do it again — this time as owners rather than employees. Many of them are financially independent given the wealth created by the booming sector. They are not hungry for money. They only work for things they really feel passionate about.

In China, the overall atmosphere now is very pro-entrepreneurship, as you can see in recent comments by Chinese premier Li Keqiang. There is an increasingly active angel investor community, and many angel investors are also former executives and early employees of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, who want to invest in the next big wave.

WSJ: What makes former Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu employees attractive to investors?

Ms. Long: Companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu didn’t succeed by coincidence. They set their bars high for talent, especially in terms of product development and sensitivity to user behavior. Typically, their employees can also gain insights based on their access to a large amount of data and user traffic. Those companies also have a pretty sophisticated career development system internally to help employees develop their skills. Last but not least, former employees of those companies often maintain strong connections with their former colleagues who take up critical positions at Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Such connections could create possible partnership opportunities for the startups.

When Alibaba was preparing to go public last year, VCs were already lining up in Hangzhou waiting for employees who were selling their stocks in the IPO to fund their own startups.

If any mid-level managers from Aliababa wanted to start new businesses, it wouldn’t be a problem to find investment. Even their colleagues can become angel investors.

Newly created wealth in the tech sector is already part of the source of capital for startups.

WSJ:  Some say Chinese tech startups are overvalued. What’s your view?

Ms. Long: The current environment makes mediocre entrepreneurs less careful and some of them get carried away. When there are ample resources in the market, sometimes it’s really hard to stay focused. They can go after many options and miss one thing that’s really big and fundamental.

Some entrepreneurs spend the money they raise on promotions and discounts that artificially boost traffic for their services. That may be an easy way to grow the company, but it’s hard to tell whether the customers are really there.

But the best entrepreneurs will always stay focused no matter how much money is available and how many options they have. There are always good companies that are really worth their valuations.

WSJ: How do you assess the value of a startup?

Ms. Long: It’s a combination of many factors. Some financial figures are helpful, but there are many other factors such as the user traffic they generate, the quality of their users, retention rate and potential access to more customers through models like marketplaces and advertising. You benchmark the startup not only against comparable international companies but also against other transactions involving similar businesses in China.

Interestingly, it’s becoming more difficult to benchmark Chinese startups against U.S. companies, because many unique business models are coming out of China, for the first time. There are more tech startups in China that cannot be simply described as the Chinese version of a U.S. startup. A few years ago, you could say Mogujie was the Pinterest of China, but now Mogujie has turned itself into a marketplace.

WSJ: Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are making many acquisitions. What does this mean to VCs?

Ms. Long: It’s positive for me, and for everybody. It shows that the market is developing toward international standards. Globally, trade sales (sale of shares in private companies to other companies in the same sector) account for the majority of exits for venture capitalists and private equity investments. But in China, previously, the trade sale concept was unheard of, and there was only one way to get out, which was the IPO, although for many companies an IPO was not the most suitable way.

Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are playing increasingly important roles in shaping the industry's ecosystem.


Source: The Wall Street Journal