InnoSpring marks 1 year of incubating tech startups

Updated: 2013-05-14 14:48

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 InnoSpring marks 1 year of incubating tech startups

Li Xuyang (left), founder and president of mobile security-software firm TrustGo, is handed a "graduation" certificate for his company by Eugene Zhang, president of InnoSpring, the first US-Chinese technology incubator in Silicon Valley, on Thursday. Yu Wei / China Daily

Having invested $2 million in 12 startups from among 300 applicants as well as housing 40 budding tech businesses overall, Silicon Valley's first US-China technology incubator is marking what its founders call a satisfying first year.

The offices of InnoSpring in Santa Clara, California, were the site of an anniversary celebration on Thursday that included dignitaries such as Dong Jianlong, science and technology counselor at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco; Teresa Cox, a US Commerce Department trade adviser; Ken Gullicksen, chief operating officer of online-storage provider Evernote Corp; and Lei Yang, managing director of tech-focused Northern Light Venture Capital.

As a partnership between Tsinghua University Science Park (TusPark), Shui On Group, Northern Light and Silicon Valley Bank, InnoSpring opened its doors in April 2012 with the goal of bridging the gap between China and Silicon Valley. It funds and partners with US-based startups, helps more-established companies expand into China, and advises Chinese startups seeking entry to the US market.

Although its investment-based approach is similar to that of many US tech incubators, "our focus ranges from clean technology, hardware, life sciences, cloud computing, big data, e-commerce and games," InnoSpring President Eugene Zhang said at the first-anniversary celebration.

Another feature is InnoSpring's strong China connection.

"As China grows in power and influence with an ever-expanding market, the country has become more attractive to startups," Zhang said. "Companies, especially those small-scale US companies, are looking for funds and resources to help them tap booming demand from this emerging market.

"Our knowledge, resources and connections in both the US and China have provided a quality service for US and Chinese startups as they expand beyond their home countries," he added.

Among the Chinese-linked companies InnoSpring has invested in so far is mobile security-software provider TrustGo. Rated No 1 in its product category by German-based independent testing firm AV Test, TrustGo focuses on development of apps for mobile devices' search and security. The company was founded in Beijing in 2011 and formed a partnership with InnoSpring a year ago as it was entering the US market.

"We connected with InnoSpring through our mutual partner Northern Light," said Li Xuyang, founder and president of TrustGo, who said the firm rebuffed another Silicon Valley incubator. It chose InnoSpring because of its US and China connections "and the easy mutual understanding between us".

According to Li, the heaviest lifting InnoSpring did was helping his company connect to businesses in technology-rich Northern California.

"InnoSpring introduced us to fund-raising when we started to look for formal investment and they introduced us to many investors," he said. "InnoSpring became a platform for us to build up our business relationship with US partners."

After a year of collaboration with the incubator, TrustGo "graduated" at InnoSpring's anniversary party. The startup has already received potential acquisition offers from two bigger companies, and is ready to begin the next chapter of its expansion.

Although TrustGo began China, it has long targeted foreign markets, said Li, predicting that InnoSpring will play a role in helping other Chinese firms seeking to go global.

About 15 tech startups had demonstrations and exhibits at Thursday's event, including TrustGo.

DewMobile exemplified a trend of Chinese companies descending on Silicon Valley. The mobile-to-mobile communication provider claims to have the world's fastest file-transfer tool. Founded two years ago in China, the company has already passed 10 million users in its home country.

Another trend is seen in firms Watsi, a US company seeking to enter the Chinese market.

The San Francisco developer of a crowd-funding platform that lets users collectively finance medical treatment for underserved people in developing countries is a bit different in that it's the first nonprofit organization to receive InnoSpring funding.

"It was just really cool for us to see basically a VC like InnoSpring backing a nonprofit. We felt very fortunate that they wanted to be one of our founders," Watsi founder Chase Adam said.

"Innovation has been happening around the world," said Bernt Wahl, an entrepreneur and University of California, Berkeley, engineering professor. "Sometimes this innovation is the spark for ideas, and by having a cross-cultural center like InnoSpring, something get started in China, then pick up steam in the US."

(China Daily 05/14/2013 page8)