China Hound Autumn 2019
A Four-Day Dive into the World’s Largest Mobility Market
With the largest population, the greatest EV sales, the biggest ride hailing market, China is the future of mobility. The size of the market leads to the amount of innovation. After a successful trip last spring, China Hound happened again this autumn in Shanghai and Hangzhou.
We started our orientation with a welcome banquet at the Riviera Restaurant on the evening of October 21st. The Bund is one of the most recognizable symbols and the pride of Shanghai. The architecture along the Bund is a living museum of the colonial history of the 1800s. With the amazing view of Huangpu River, the dinner was authentic cuisine from the cities of Shanghai and Suzhou, which are always a favorite of royal families.
On October 22nd, Hemi hosted a full-day conference, “2019 Mobility Innovation Venture Forum,” at Shanghai International Automobile City (SIAC). Founded in 1998, SIAC is the country’s largest automobile R&D and manufacturing region. The forum is Shanghai’s biggest mobility demo day of the year. More than 14 startups shared information about their companies and products focusing on electrification, autonomous driving, ride sharing, cloud computing, and more.
The forum also hosted expert panels that covered four heated topics in the current mobility ecosystem, broadly categorized as new technology, new business models, new energy, and new standards.
On the new technology front, the key opinion leaders discussed why China’s self-driving vehicles are on track to take a global leadership position ahead of the U.S. Trial operations of autonomous buses and cars in Shanghai and Beijing highlight their desire to steer the automotive-tech revolution. As the inventor of the global micro-mobility trend, China’s tightening regulations put a squeeze on the number of ride-hailing cars and drivers, which in turn encourages new business models.
Global investors and domestic investors discussed the upcoming energy innovation and how the world’s biggest car market is set to embrace hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles the way it did electric vehicles, as part of the government’s wider efforts to promote green energy in the world’s largest auto market. All eyes are on China now as the country leading the way in the race for 5G development. The top-down national agenda has provided instrumental support to create a complete ecosystem in the market. Chinese investors and entrepreneurs provided insights on the new standards that are leading the forefront of change.
The next day’s journey started at Hangzhou Shanghai Jiaotong University. Established in 1896, the university has been referred to as “The MIT of the East” since the 1930s. It is renowned as one of the oldest, most prestigious and selective universities in China.
Next we visited Banma Network Technologies, a joint venture between Alibaba Group and SAIC Motor Corp. In 2015, SAIC Motor and Alibaba Group invested a total of RMB 1 billion in this company. In 2016, both parties jointly launched the Roewe RX5, the world’s first internet car embedded AliOS-based Banma System which attracted a huge consumer segment looking for an innovative and intelligent travel experience.
The third company that we toured was Ctrip which was founded in 1999 and is currently the largest online travel agency in China. It has integrated 10 ride-hailing services across the world into its own app to offer various mobility services such as private ride booking and chartered van rentals in more than 785 cities.
Next we visited China’s SpaceX, Land Space, which spurred the first generation of private aerospace companies in China. Land Space is devoted to the development of Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines (LREs) and low-cost commercial launch vehicles in Huzhou.
Notable startup visits continued on the last day. Caocao Ride Hailing Service is an electric vehicle sharing platform backed by Chinese automaker, Geely Group. Founded in 2015, Caocao obtained licenses for ride-hailing services in 71 cities across China and deployed around 32,000 NEVs by the end of 2018.
Our next stop brought us to XingZhe, Hangzhou’s Municipal Rental Car Platform. Closely working with the Hangzhou city government, Xingzhe is a time-sharing platform for leasing new energy vehicles in Hangzhou. Users can rent electric vehicles easily via the platform. It’s a new form of mobility in China, where ride hailing, charging and parking services are put together in all.
The last company we visited was Ant Financial Services Group, formerly known as Alipay, an affiliate company of the Chinese Alibaba Group. Ant Financial is the highest valued FinTech company in the world, and the world’s most valuable unicorn company, with a valuation of US$150 billion.
As we ended our trip, we couldn’t help but feel that developments in the field of mobility innovation in China exceeded our expectations. China is a market every international auto-maker and startup cannot ignore: it is currently both the world’s largest automotive production site and its largest sales market, as well as an industry leader in terms of investment and development. Hemi Ventures and our partners are at the forefront in accelerating China’s quick progress in the next generation of mobility innovations. If you want first-hand knowledge from policymakers, industry partners, and founders about local innovation, we hope you will consider joining us for our next China Hound.