Zhaoqing is one of the least developed cities in the GBA cluster. Which is obviously just right for the world’s biggest software company.
Microsoft launched a cloud and mobile application incubation platform in Zhaoqing this week, dubbed “Unicorn Field”. It will apparently “leverage the advantages in terms of R&D by being located in Zhaoqing, while being well-integrated into high-tech and strategic emerging industries such as intelligent manufacturing, energy conservation, environmental protection and electric vehicles.”
The incubator will focus on cloud computing, Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence and 5G. Innovators will get start-up space, shared facilities, technical services, consulting services, investment and financing, entrepreneurship guidance, and resource exchanges.
This is all assuming Microsoft isn’t told by the US government to stop selling its services to anyone else in China besides Huawei, of course.
Zhaoqing is about an hour from Guangzhou South Station by high-speed railway. Which means it is around two hours from Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Station.
Guangdong has officially launched a plan to attract young innovators from Hong Kong and Macau into its three key special economic zones of Hengqin, Nansha and Qianhai. The first phase, which has begun, will construct “innovation bases” for youth (under-40s) at the three zones by next year. The second phase will see these bases extended to Guangdong’s nine cities of the Greater Bay Area.
Readers can be forgiven a yawn. But the drive behind these projects should not be underestimated. The GBA masterplan envisages a future where young people from the two SARs are deeply embedded in the province’s growth from bases where their costs are significantly lower and their growth prospects are significantly brighter. They can still go to Lan Kwai Fong or the Venetian to let off steam on weekends, but their lifestyles will be inextricably linked to the development of the mainland cities that are busy rolling out cheap accommodation, low taxes, and beautiful/handsome partners for them. (OK, that last one was kidding.)
Read more (in Chinese).
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Park held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new building that it hopes will help to attract more talents. InnoCell is an on-site residential building which will have 500 apartment units that can also be used as work spaces. The 17-story InnoCell building occupies a 2,900 square meter site. The park launched an accommodation support scheme last year, setting aside HK$100 million to subsidize overseas or Mainland talents for scientific research. Each applicant can receive a housing allowance up to HK$10,000 per month for a period of 6 to 12 months.
Read more (in Chinese).
Private enterprise is growing in Guangzhou. In Q1, the number of private companies in the city grew 29.2% YoY to just under one million, with their registered capital more than doubling to RMB8.6 trillion.
According to statistics released by the city government, private enterprises account for 38.3% of the city’s total GDP, and their output rose 7.8% YoY in Q1. This was 0.3 percentage points higher than Guangzhou’s overall GDP growth rate, and 2.2 percentage points higher than the same period of the previous year.
The rise in capital was due primarily to a surge in industrial investment, which jumped 68.2% YoY.
Guangzhou officials continue to emphasize how the city’s business environment is being improved. The city has also been working to alleviate financing challenges for smaller firms, especially with the recent establishment of a RMB20 billion fund, half of which has been disbursed already.
Read more(in Chinese).
Guangzhou based self-driving startup Pony.ai is joining an exclusive club of companies that have launched
autonomous ride-hailing programs. At this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, it took
the wraps off of PonyPilot, a test project for “product-ready”
driverless cars within a geofenced area in Guangzhou. It’s currently available
to Pony.ai employees and “select affiliates” by invitation only, and CEO James
Peng says it’s the culmination of years of continuous testing in the Nansha
district, according to Venture Beat.
Pony.ai says that PonyPilot
covers roughly 50 square kilometers of central Nansha, including commercial
plazas, office buildings, landmark hotels, libraries, and residential
complexes. Riders are able to hail cars at any predetermined point with a smartphone
app available through WeChat, and travel using point-to-point dynamic routing
to any other predetermined point within the area. During rides, passengers can
follow their vehicle’s location and driving decisions through mounted in-cabin
Pony.ai says it might
consider opening PonyPilot to the public in the future, and potentially beyond
the confines of Nansha. The company is currently testing driverless cars in
Fremont, California and Beijing, in addition to Guangzhou.
Beijing Kunlun Tech is to invest US$50 million for a 3% stake in Guangzhou-based autonomous driving technology startup Pony.ai, reports Technode.
claimed to be the first to offer fully self-driving car rides to the public in China. It did a
soft launch of an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Guangzhou in February 2018.
It was also the first startup to secure an autonomous vehicle testing license
Pony.ai completed its Series A and A1 financing rounds in
2018, raising a total of $214 million, with backers including Sequoia Capital
China, China Merchants Capital and Morningside Ventures.
Instead of making its
own cars, the company partners with local automobile groups like BYD Auto and
GAC to provide AI solutions that turn their cars into driverless vehicles.
Kong-based supply chain compliance and quality assurance platform International
Compliance Workshop (ICW) raised US$2.5 million in a series A funding round led
by Hong Kong’s MindWorks Ventures, reports Tech
and Technology Venture Fund Corporation (ITVFC), established by the Hong Kong
government, also participated in the round. The ICW deal marks the debut
investment for ITVFC, which in 2017 set up a HK$2 billion (US$255 million)
vehicle to boost local startups.
The platform connects retailers,
manufacturers, suppliers, trading companies, as well as certified testing and
certification institutions. It also operates as a marketplace for clients to
find accredited product testing, inspection, and auditing services.
“Our goal is to make
Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area the product testing, inspection, and
certification centre of the world,” said Gary Lam, CEO and co-founder of ICW.
ICW will use the proceeds to further develop its
compliance management system and IT platform. It will also use the money to
expand to the US and Gulf region.
Hong Kong-based online travel startup Klook has secured US$225 million in an extended Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, reports DealStreetAsia.
Existing investors Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, TCV and OurCrowd also participated in the round, Klook announced on Tuesday. Its previous funding round last August, when it raised US$200 million, valued the five-year-old company at US$1 billion, but Klook did not disclose the latest valuation.
Klook said it would use the proceeds of the funding to expand in Asian markets. One key focus is Japan, where it said it “will deepen its investments ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo” by targeting both foreign and Japanese tourists.
Guangzhou-based game livestreaming platform Huya Inc said it could raise more than US$500 million through a secondary share offering, following the footsteps of other Chinese internet heavyweights such as broadcasting specialist Bilibili and news aggregator Qutoutiao, who have recently raised big funds on positive sentiment, reports Caixin Global.
Under its plan, Huya and an existing shareholder would sell up to 21.16 million of the company’s American depositary shares (ADSs). That would translate to total fundraising of about $534 million, based on the company’s latest share price.
Huya is growing strongly in terms of revenue and is among the major industry players that is profitable. In its latest financial report it said its revenue doubled in last year’s fourth quarter to RMB1.5 billion (US$224 million), while its profit jumped 20-fold to nearly RMB100 million.
For Chinese readers, here is an interesting feature on the 16 unicorns established in the Greater Bay Area over the past few years. According to a Shenzhen-based research institute, SZEconomy, Shenzhen now has eight of these mythical animals – startups valued at more than US$1b – while Hong Kong and Guangzhou have three each and Dongguan and Zhuhai one each.
Continue reading The rise of GBA unicorns