Startup competition has its eye on foreign talent

The annual "entrepreneurial talent" competition in Yangpu District has established five sub-sites in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto and Sweden.
Startup competition has its eye on foreign talent
Ti Gong

A successful entrepreneur shares his experiences with other aspiring business people at the opening session of the annual startup competition in Yangpu District over the weekend.

The city’s major competition to attract foreign professionals to open startups in Shanghai has been expanded overseas for the first time.

The annual “entrepreneurial talent” competition, launched by Yangpu District over the weekend, has established five sub-sites in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto and Sweden, the district government said.

Candidates selected from the overseas sites will compete with the winners from the eight local sites.

“The initiative aims to find and reach more foreign professionals and attract them to come to Yangpu, with generous subsidies and preferential policies,” the government said.

The competition this year has collected a total of 200 million yuan (US$31.4 million) of government and private funds for 100 winning startup projects, said Qiu Jian, an official with the competition organizer.

A number of venture investors and financial institutes have been invited to judge the projects.

Since the competition began in 2016, the district has selected 2,400 startups and 259 entrepreneurs, including some “unicorns” — privately owned startups valued at more than US$1 billion. This includes winners and other companies eligible for subsidies.

“I initially founded my company in London, but later decided to move to Shanghai due to the high living costs in the United Kingdom,” said Zhang Shengliang, CEO of a robotic startup focusing on artificial limbs with artificial intelligence technology.

“Thanks to Shanghai’s great entrepreneurship environment and supportive policies, the company has been developing quite well.”

Winning enterprises such as Zhang’s contributed an average of 6.4 million yuan in taxes in 2017, more than double the previous year.

So far, the Yangpu government has attracted 374 overseas professionals, including Chinese who study overseas as well as foreigners.

The district government will spend 20 million yuan a year to support overseas professionals willing to start their businesses in Yangpu.

Professionals who studied or worked overseas and are deemed top talent will receive 1 million yuan in assistance for startup projects and 500,000 yuan in housing subsidies.

Apart from the competition, the district has also started recruiting high-tech professionals from Silicon Valley and Seattle to develop innovation and entrepreneurship.

More than 500 foreign entrepreneurs and Chinese students studying abroad attended two recruiting events that were conducted by senior officials from the city’s Yangpu District at Stanford University and the Global Innovation Exchange in Seattle in March in the United States.

Meanwhile, a white book was released at the launch of the competition, which analyzes the demography of entrepreneurs in Shanghai.

Over 80 percent of local entrepreneurs are male and about 60 percent are aged between 30 and 40. Nearly half have at least a master’s degree and more than 40 percent have studied abroad.

The most popular sectors were pharmaceuticals, enterprise services and artificial intelligence.

A recent survey of local investors found they are interested in entertainment and sports, e-commerce and pharmaceutical and health enterprises.

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