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Growing relationships in China

Written by, Bruce Walker - Founder/CEO, WeAreTheFuture

· investment,International,Asia

Eight Days, Two Investment Conferences, Numerous meetings and One Grade 8 Typhoon later I’m back in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This week I had the privilege of compering two investment conferences in Asia for Scottish companies. Engage, Invest, Exploit (EIE) is the UK’s premier investor showcase for Scottish businesses, taking place in Scotland and London for many years. This week, EIE held it’s first international conference in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The trip to Asia was organised in partnership with Informatics Ventures, Asia Scotland Institute, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International (SDI), WeAreTheFuture and FutureX. We created this programme with a vision of exposing Scottish high growth entrepreneurs to the Hong Kong and Chinese markets, as well as allowing Asian investors the chance to get an insight into the Scottish technology opportunity.

In addition to the EIE investment conference, we organised for the companies to get an insight into the HK market by visiting key eco-system organisations, including a welcome from Invest HK who spoke about how they can support companies looking to setup a presence in Hong Kong.

We then visited the Swire Blueprint Accelerator, which is part of the Swire Group. This B2B focused accelerator helps drive growth in business facing companies, while providing direct access to Swire Group companies, including Cathy Pacific and Coca Cola Asia.

Following Blueprint, we headed to Brinc IoT Accelerator which is dedicated to supporting companies building ‘Internet of Things’ products. Brinc invests in many of the companies in the accelerator and can support it’s companies looking to manufacture, with it’s strong links to Shenzhen and Greater China.

On Tuesday EIE Hong Kong kicked off with a keynote address from Lena Wilson, CEO of Scottish Enterprise, followed by an extension of support from Charles Ng, Director General of Invest Hong Kong.

Mallzee, UWI Technology, Speech Graphics, Flavourly, IQX, Bellrock Technology, Cognitive Geology, Klik 2 Learn, Sunamp, Ice Robotics and EoSurgical took to the stage in Hong Kong on the 30th floor of KPMG Hong Kong HQ to pitch to a room filled with investors and key influencers.

EIE HK was a great success, with many of the companies securing follow up meetings with investors and the community thrilled by the opportunity in Scottish technology. 

The day after EIE HK the delegation met Sergei Makhmodov CEO of Daxtra Technologies, which is a successful Scottish company that moved to HK. Sergi spoke openly about his experience growing a business in the Asia Pacific region; the ups and downs of operating there and critically about understanding how to do business in China - which is not easy.

On Wednesday afternoon we travelled north to Shenzhen in mainland China. EIE Shenzhen took place on Thursday 20th at F815 Idea Land in partnership with Shenzhen Creative Investment Group (SCIG). 

The team at SCIG pulled out all the stops to help us create an incredible visual display for EIE Shenzhen. The companies were all assigned ‘buddies’ to help with translation and delegates were provided with Chinese translated information on all the companies, as well as headsets for the simultaneous translation. 

My job, similar to HK was to compere the event from the stage - with the added challenge of speaking to a Chinese speaking audience!

The Scottish companies did an incredible job and really raised their game to match the impressive stage display and room of nearly 200 investors and business leaders, including representatives from Alibaba, Shenzhen Venture Capital Association, Tencent, Huawei and Baidu.

Trust me when I say this is not an easy task. To present in your native language and convince a group of English speakers that you’re business is investment worthy is challenging in it’s self, but to pitch to a Chinese audience, while they listen to simulations translation is a phenomenal challenge!

It cannot commend the entrepreneurs highly enough for this tremendous effort!

The conference was anchored by a fantastic opening speech from Eleanor Mitchell, Head of High Growth Ventures at Scottish Enterprise, who passionately spoke about the opportunity in Scotland and the desire to drive business relationships between Scotland and China. 

So what was learned?

For me, the programme reaffirmed that you must get out in the world - you simply cannot truly appreciate the opportunities until you are there. You cannot accurately evaluate the market from home, you must buy that plane ticket and get out.

The reality of doing business is a huge one. This is a massive market and it requires unbelievable patience and time - relationships are number one. The relationship with Edinburgh City Council and SDI, particularly Simon Shen and his colleagues in other parts of China enabled the partnership with SCIG. As a result of this strong relationship, the team at SCIG made such an effort to ensure that EIE Shenzhen went down so successfully and attracted the right audience.

This trip also showed me that the Chinese companies are open and willing to business with us, they are ready to establish relationships. These relationships will take time to build, but if we are willing, then they are ready to engage in the conversations.

In conclusion, I’m excited about what comes next and that we have managed to secure Casey Lau from Startups Hong Kong to join us in Edinburgh next month at our Startup Summit, so that we can further our ties with Asia.

Until next time, thank you to everyone I met on this trip and the hard work and dedication from the organising team, the participating entrepreneurs and the in-market support.

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