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August 31, 2016

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Innovative French expat awarded top prize

RACHEL Daydou, a French expat in Shanghai, was yesterday awarded the top prize in a government-initiated innovation competition along with her team at Wowulous, the startup behind the emerging gift-sharing App Lihaoma.

It's the first time that a category for foreigners has been included in the Shanghai Youth Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition, which is organized by the Shanghai Youth League as a sub-competition of its national event.

Daydou, who is also chief networker at Startup Grind, a startup community with global reach, told Shanghai Daily that the city is an exciting environment for foreign innovators.

“There are increasingly more incubators, accelerators and networking grounds offered by both the government and companies, and local entrepreneurs don’t hesitate to share their experiences with us foreigners,” she said.

There are about 3,000 members of the local Startup Grind, which holds monthly events, and most are foreigners, according to Daydou.

But she said foreign startup entrepreneurs also face problems here.

“When we talk to Chinese investors, we are often asked if we have Chinese members in our team, as if they don’t think startups made up of foreigners can succeed as well,” she said.

Daydou also believes that Chinese startups should become more aggressive.

“It seems that people here see failure as losing face and fear the consequences before they start out,” she said. Daydou, who speaks Chinese fluently and has won multiple Wushu championships in France, said she grew up in a Chinatown and loves Chinese culture.

She first came to China to study in 2007 and returned in 2011 to work for local companies in marketing and sales roles.

“Being able to travel around China in those jobs definitely got me acquainted with the local market,” she said. “I’m thankful that I can try my hand at being an entrepreneur here in China.”

Wu Siyu, a Chinese employee working on Daydou’s nine-member team, said she enjoys multicultural startups.

“From my experiences I can tell that foreign bosses are more approachable to employees, and I feel my opinions are taken into account more,” she said.

Along with the other prizewinners, Daydou’s team will participate in the national competition being held in Shanghai next month.

Dai Bing, an official with the Shanghai Youth League who is in charge of the competition, said the winners will be entitled to privileges in terms of home rents, taxes, industrial park recommendations and publicity.

“It’s not easy for those young people to deal with various government offices, and we hope to use our position to help them as much as possible,” he said.


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