Why Chengdu? This is a question I get asked very often by both Chinese and foreigners. People are curious about why Startupbootcamp launched its first China accelerator program in Chengdu. The logical choice should theoretically be in the tier 1 cities like Beijing or Shanghai.
The impression of Chengdu is it’s a laid-back city famous for the pandas. With its rich cultural heritage and abundant natural attractions, people do have plenty of opportunities to chill and enjoy the finer side of life. However, according to the 2017 China Commercial city list, Chengdu has the highest possibility to become the next major metropolis in China!
The reason Chengdu could be leveled up to a new first-tier city is because of China’s national mission to encourage economic growth by supporting an environment that allows innovation and entrepreneur to thrive. The Chengdu government’s major move to support this policy is to set up the Hi-Tech zone district that Startupbootcamp is also located in. The goal is for the development zone, with an area of 5.5 million square meters, to produce 2500 new inventions, 60 corporations public listed, and generate economic output of more than 150 billion yuan. A pure infrastructure play alone will not work. Gone are the days of the “Build and they will come” model. The zone is supported by very good policies that encourage entrepreneurship across various segments of societies ie. from students to working professionals. We’re taking about a big number here; the national mission offers a great opportunity for Chengdu to position itself as a highly developed tech city in Western China.
For an entrepreneurial ecosystem to thrive, talent is exceptionally important. As an international accelerator, it’s important for our host city to be open and welcoming to international talent besides home grown ones. Chengdu is not only welcoming to foreign talent but also have appropriate policies to help foreign entrepreneur’s setup their venture in the city. Locally, 360000 students graduate every year from top ranked universities in Chengdu such as University of Electronics science and Technology of China and Sichuan University. There are many other reputable universities in Chengdu that churn out abundant and affordable talent pool that Startupbootcamp portfolio companies can take advantage of.
Startups can achieve massive scale quickly because the Chinese domestic market is large in population. Chengdu alone has a population of 15.5 Million people! This is bigger than a lot of countries. This is a population pool that is more than sufficient for startups to test and validate product market fit before raising funds to scale their business. Best of all, startups’ burn rate will be significantly lower compared to the coastal cities.
When President Xi launched his One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative – a global economic plan to create regional connectivity through infrastructure development and trade, Chengdu became an important transportation hub in Western China. It is the only city in the west that will have two airports and a railway system that will provide faster access to key markets in Europe and Asia. For foreign companies, they get the chance to make their supply chain more efficient and perform manufacturing in Western China at a cheaper price than the coastal cities. Chengdu is already the most international city in Western China. With OBOR, more international companies will relocate to Chengdu and tap on the new developmental and economic opportunities.
Now that we have determined Chengdu makes sense for us to host an accelerator, the issue is what industry vertical will be suitable? The Chengdu government is planning to scale the healthcare medical industry to 10 trillion yuan by 2020. The landscape is promising for the next wave of digital health approaches to be developed and piloted in Chengdu. Chengdu has the best hospital resources in Western China. 18 tertiary hospitals have the ability to provide access to digital data and the number is increasing. Huaxi hospital is the leading force and ranked 3rd nationally. It is influential and has a team of good quality doctors who are seeking new methods of impacting patients’ lives.
We already operate Digital Health programs in US (Miami) and Europe (Berlin). An Asian branch of the program makes sense and Chengdu managed to tick all the boxes when it comes to selecting a host city that will be a good fit. Hopefully I have now managed to answer “Why Chengdu?” adequately. The fast growing economic opportunities, budding entrepreneurial ecosystem, strong healthcare industry, good food and nice environment make this an ideal city for our teams to live, work and play. Our program will be kicking off on 19 June and we will reveal the inaugural cohort nearer to the date. Stay tuned!