Startup contest is a win-win for all

Updated: 2013-11-11 09:10

By CHANG JUN in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Organizers of the Winning in the 21st Century North America Chinese Startup and Talent Summit (Winning), now in its fourth consecutive year, announced on Friday its appraisal committee is open to receiving applications.

After three rounds of screenings in five sub sites — Seattle, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley — the 20 finalist teams will compete on Jan 5 for prizes and investment from the US and China.

The first startup contest of its kind for North American Chinese, Winning has gained a solid foothold in the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, and has helped transform ideas into marketable practice by joining forces with high-tech industry parks in China, according to Kong Dehai, secretary-general of the US-China Association of High-level Professionals (UCAHP), which organizes the event.

Experts from national technology and innovation industry parks in Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai and Beijing sit on the judging panels, seeking the right programs to invest in and offer preferential policies and fiscal incentives to lure talent to return to China.

"Our contest provides a complete ecosystem which connects technology innovation, talent, market and capital all together for entrepreneurs," said Kong, who has been serving on the organizing committee since 2011 and helped bring the contest onto the stage at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

In the past three years, the evaluation committee has screened more than 1,000 projects from 5,000 applicants of Chinese origin. The Chinese industry parks have selected and adopted more than 100 projects mainly along the Yangtze River Delta, Beijing and Tianjin, according to UCAHP.

The six projects entering the 2013 finals have each received $1 million funding from overseas angel investors. The top prize winner also received a $1.6 million investment from Chinese industry parks.

"By any standard, Winning has served as a reliable and trustworthy platform through which entrepreneurs of Chinese origin in North America are able to find funding and markets in their home country," said Wang Junming, counselor of science and technology with the Consulate General in San Francisco.

"I'm very excited to see this is happening in Silicon Valley, the tech and innovation center in the world, especially after Chinese President Xi Jinping recently called on the overseas-educated talent, whether at home or abroad, to contribute to realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation." Wang added.

Xi, when speaking to 3,000 people on Oct 21 at the 100th anniversary celebration of the establishment of the Western Returned Scholars Association in Beijing, said the government supports students and scholars studying abroad, encourages them to return to China, guarantees them the freedom of coming and going, and supports them in using their talents

The Communist Party of China and the government respect the choices of the overseas-educated talent, Xi said. "You are warmly welcomed if you return to China," he said. "If you stay abroad, we support you in serving the country in various ways."

China began to send students and scholars to study abroad around 100 years ago. Since 1978, China has been quickening the pace. By the end of 2012, 2.64 million had been sent abroad, among whom 1.09 million returned, according to the Ministry of Education.

"I hope to see more Chinese achieve his or her Chinese dream through their startup entrepreneurship," said Wang.

Michael Jin, managing partner and international vice-chairman of the Tsinghua Entrepreneurs & Executive Club (TEEC) Angel Fund, said both US and Chinese private and institutional investors are showing increasing interest in Winning.

Zhao Yao, president and CEO of Array Networks and a representative from the Peking University Alumni Association-North America, said the entrepreneurs club of his alma mater strives to join hands with TEEC to better support startup entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

"To date, we've had 10 industry parks agree to jointly sponsor this contest. The newest sponsor is Qingdao National High-Tech Industrial Development Zone, one of the top-level industry parks in North China," Jin said. "This way Winning becomes more well-known and better received as a channel and platform in China."

The organizers this year will add the Yong Entrepreneur Award to the existing contest. "We hope to see that the younger generation of Chinese can continuously contribute to innovation and inherit their forefather's startup spirit," said Kong. "We want to inspire our children and children's children."

This year's keynote speakers include Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

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