Is there a bubble in the startup industry? It looks like it. At least that’s according to a discussion panel at GMIC, which included Robin Chan (founder and CEO at Time Machine Ventures), Bao Fan (founder and CEO, China Renaissance) and Huoy – Ming Yeh, (managing director of Silicon Valley Bank China).
It’s the same familiar points, but worth noting. Stupid money is being invested in companies, with no revenue at most times. But few acquisitions are happening in China and Asia. Most investors can’t find the 50x returns they are looking for. And because there’s an excess of capital, more folks are coming out to build startups, raise money, and hoping to be the next Facebook, Google, or Instagram. But you see the disconnection. There’s a lot of money and startups, but very few exits in Asia. That’s how I interpret it.
That said, Bao Fan pointed out that it is a natural cycle of the mobile and internet industry. The next bubble burst and dry spell would test the companies’ true strength. It is good in that sense as the industry somehow needs that. Those who survive are likely to do well. Robin Chan specifically pointed that the gaming looks to be on the downside. He didn’t explain why, but his comment does bring some weight as he previously founded XPD which was acquired by Zynga, which eventually became Zynga China. Chan has also angel invested in Twitter, Square, and Foursquare.
In China, he invested in Xiaomi, which I believe is now a billion dollar company. He is also skeptical about funding mobile applications as he sees no exit in China. For him, only a few companies in China can compete globally. And guess what? He pointed Xiaomi as one. And he noted that Weixin (now WeChat) was another. It’s important to note that Weixin is part of Tencent. Bao Fan did point out others, including Dianping, Youku, Renren, and YY.
While there’s excess capital to invest, I thought Huoy-Ming Yeh gave a good alternative view on investing in startups. Most investors in China are investing in trending industries – or basically clones – and that is fine of course. It’s their money. But new and bold ideas should also be invested as she believes that it would help push innovation, and hopefully, also nurture the next “Yao Ming” within the Chinese tech industry.