China struggles to produce valuable start-ups

25 Oct, 2019 - 00:10 0 Views

eBusiness Weekly

China’s ability to produce valuable new start-ups, or “unicorns”, has plummeted compared with last year, according to research, as a deepening economic slowdown hits the country’s tech heartland and venture capital fundraising dries up.

In the first six months of 2019, only 36 new start-ups with a valuation of at least $1 billion were fostered in China, according to Shanghai-based research company Hurun Report, a 30 percent fall on the same period in 2018.

It is also a stark climbdown from last year, where Hurun data showed Chinese unicorns were being created at a rate of one every 3,8 days.

China has been home to some of the world’s biggest unicorns over the past several years, including ByteDance, Didi Chuxing and Alibaba’s Ant Financial. But the start-up frenzy that gripped the world’s second-biggest economy has since begun to cool, coinciding with a fundraising “capital winter” that has seen the number of venture capital deals falling by roughly half in the third quarter to 702, the lowest quarterly count since 2014, according to data from Preqin.

“Before, the VC industry in China was really hot, everyone wanted to get in and invest, but now that’s pulled back and every sector is pretty quiet,” said Wang Qingrui, an independent internet industry analyst.

As financing has been hit, driven by a government crackdown on risky lending and the burst of a funding bubble, entrepreneurs who had been wary of cutting valuations to raise money have been forced to lower their expectations, said Mr Wang.

“First off, they have to survive, and financing is the basis of their survival,” he said.

Local venture capital firms which raise money and invest in renminbi have been hit hardest, said William Bao Bean, a partner at SOSV Investments in Shanghai.

“Almost all those VCs didn’t get a return . . .  and a lot of funds have gone out of business,” he said, noting that while dollar investment from traditional VC funds had cooled, it hadn’t been hit to the same extent.

Many newer funds that took advantage of the 2017-18 funding boom have seen their start-ups fail this year, according to Nisa Leung, managing partner at Qiming Ventures, one of China’s biggest venture capital firms.

“There was too much money floating around and this is a good thing because we are now seeing more discipline in terms of due diligence,” she said.

“Eighteen months ago it used to take two to three months to close a deal but now it takes nine months or longer to close a fundraising round.”

Ms Leung said companies with robust business models could still succeed despite the drop-off, adding that three of Qiming’s tech companies had successfully raised money at higher valuations in the past month.

The Hurun Report noted that even though the pace of creation of unicorns had slowed, China still led the world, with 206 unicorns to the US’s 203.

But the Chinese economy is now growing at its slowest pace in three decades, a worrying trend that is twinned with a rocky stock market and concerns about the sky-high valuations for start-ups.

“It’s another Chinese winter, since basically last September everyone on the local side, investing renminbi has been on vacation,” said Mr Bean. — Financial Times.

Share This:

Sponsored Links