Investing, innovation and economic growth were the focal points of this year’s Silicon Dragon, which took place on recently at the NASDAQ building in Times Square.
The event focused on the benefits of US entrepreneurs, VCs and investors doing business with emerging tech markets, Israel and China.
Rebecca Fannin, who authored the book, “Silicon Dragon: How China Is Winning the Tech Race”, established the first Silicon Dragon event in Asia in 2008. It currently takes place annually in major cities like London, Beijing, Shanghai and LA. The goal of Silicon Dragon is to help major tech hubs create strategies that allow businesses to grow their product and profit.
The evening then started with a talk by Xu Chen, president and CEO of Bank of China USA and chairman of the China General Chamber of Commerce.
Chen talked about China’s new approach to economic growth and said that the country’s GDP grew substantially within the first quarter of 2016. He also described China’s tech industry as a significant contributor to its economy, accounting for over 55 percent of the country’s financial grounds.
Chen then explained that technology must advance even further in the future in order for China’s economy to grow. He feels that to reach this goal we must create innovative products like automated machines, robots, 3D-printed designs and energy-saving batteries.
While Chen said China plans to spend trillions of dollars on creating new manufacturing technology, he feels the country is not yet globally competitive and still has room to improve.
This is where American innovators and investors play their part.
The event continued with discussions and panels with businesspeople who have achieved global success.
Fannin orchestrated a Q&A with Eric Mika, the senior VP of Letv, also known as the “Netflix of China.” Mika described how he got involved in the digital market and the importance of expanding a business globally.
He explained that not only does Letv stream TV shows in China, but it has recently expanded to broadcast popular music and sports events.
According to Mika, Letv has 750 million users and growing. He created a phone, called the “Equifone,” which streams these events. Mika decided to create products for China because he was impressed by the intelligence and work ethics he observed when living in China and felt that the Chinese market was more open to innovation than the US market.
Mika said that unlike the US, China is not “locked down in an industrial revolutionary pre-model of the universe.”
Mika plans to bring the Equifone to the US later this year.
The evening continued with more talks of innovative businesses, such as Alice Chang’s “PerfectCorp”—an app that merges beauty with technology.
PerfectCorp allows users to upload photos of themselves and test out makeup products without having to purchase them or physically put them on.
Though the app is only two years old, more than 260 million people have tried it.
“I believe that a search for beauty is a very fundamental human demand,” Chang said. “Everybody can design themself and discover themself.”
After Chang’s talk, the Dragon continued with a panel about the future of China and Israeli markets.
A group of entrepreneurs, professors and experts, all of whom have lived in China, discussed the country’s current economic state and suggestions and predictions for the future.
David Denoon, director of the NYU Center on US-China Relations and political and economics professor at NYU said he is not optimistic about China’s economy. He feels that the growth model is exhausted and the labor force is inadequate.
Ann Lee, adjunct professor at NYC and author of “What the U.S. Can Learn from China,” has a more positive outlook. She said she doesn’t really compare the Chinese market to the U.S. Market because China demands different forms of technological advancements than the U.S. She said the Chinese want larger machines and innovations that will benefit society, rather than small devices that create entertainment for the individual.
Howard Krongard, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of State and an adviser of global intelligence and business services at Veootas Assurance Partners, said that Chinese entrepreneurs have advantages that the U.S. doesn’t. He said this is because Chinese startups have state entities invest in their ideas, and even if they fail to deliver a profit, they will not lose money.
The bottom line is, that even if the economy is improving or declining, the Chinese market is always there and will always be a niche to serve. The customer demands extremely sophisticated, innovative technology, and the U.S. entrepreneurs must be even more innovative than Chinese entrepreneurs to attract this audience.
American investors however will be competing with Chinese investors, so they must offer some type of additional incentive, or just a better way for the business to make money than the local entities.
China might have a demand for advancement and a bevy of prospective investors, But Israel has the largest amount of existing startups in the world.
The next panel – the VC and Dealmakers panel discussed the benefits of investing in Israel. Speakers included Alan Patricof, cofounder and managing director of Greycroft Partners, Brian Cohen, Chairman of the New York Angels and Founding Partner at NY Venture Partners, Jim Robinson, cofounder and Managing Partner at RRE Ventures, among others.
The panel said that $400 million has been invested in startups, which is almost four times the amount of money invested in larger, wealthy countries like Italy and Australia.
The men talked about how this is due to Angel investors—people who are not related to the founders, but support a startup out of pure interest.
Following the panel was a book talk with Leah Spiro, founder of Riverside Creative Management and Rana Foroohar, author of “Makers and Takers.”
Foorohar discussed the main points of her book, such as the pitfalls of MBA instruction and the separation of big banks.
As she demonstrates in “Makers and Takers,” Foorohar said that MBA instruction does not teach an adequate skillset necessary for today’s entrepreneurs. .
She also said that big banks should be separated because the current ecosystem does not prepare companies to make long-term decisions and they are pressured to jack up their shares.
After the book talk was the final leg of the event: presentations by 15 entrepreneurs. Each entrepreneur had three minutes to pitch his or her startup to the panel of judges.
An online job training platform for international students, an app that gives health recommendations, an overseas medical telecommunications program and a specialty fried rice company were just a few of the pitches.
Two winners will be chosen out of the group and will have the opportunity present their ideas in Beijing.
These pitches were a good endpoint to the informative program and will help Silicon Dragon achieve its mission of leading tech companies toward international expansion.
Image credit: Silicon Dragon