BrainsToVentures (B-to-V) is a Swiss/German network of entrepreneurial private investors that invest in growth companies. Members of this semi-closed network (you have to be recommended by another member, and existing members have a veto right with respect to the admission of new members) visited Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore last week to get to know more about the early-stage investment culture, and to look at several interesting companies.
I was invited to speak at their private deal conference in Shanghai, and spent most of the day talking to these entrepreneurs. It was very inspiring, not only because all of them are very successful, but also because it gave me some interesting business ideas and even some business leads (for game development, branded games and in-game advertising). I shared my experiences in the Chinese internet industry with the audience, and compared it to the situation in Europe. I feel the Chinese internet is still in its infancy with just 10% of the population online, and I explained to the investors that I see a huge opportunity in China’s mobile internet.
In the afternoon seven start-ups were selected to pitch their business plans to the investors. Among these seven were two companies that I am an angel investor in, which made it even more interesting. Online auto platform 1bib.com presented its business plan and its strategy to gain market share. 1bib.com is looking to raise a new round over the next months, and several investors were interested to participate. 1bib.com is doing very well in the market, and I believe the company can become the market leader in China with this financial injection. I see a very bright future for this company.
Pioco, the bluetooth advertising start-up, also presented its business strategy. I have written about them a few weeks ago, when I was not yet an official investor. Steve Chao, Pioco’s CEO, presented his vision for the company’s future and his current strategy and clients. Pioco is already profitable, but in order to keep on expanding fast it also needs to do an additional round of funding. Pioco received a positive feedback from several investors.
Several other good companies presented to the audience, including an exact Chinese copy of Habbo Hotel, a company that provides low-cost international mobile phone calls, and a Tudou-to-be. For some the 7-minute pitch was too short (meaning that their preparation was not very good), but most did an excellent job in ‘selling’ their company.
At night the angel investors had a dinner together with the start-ups (organized by PwC), followed by a panel discussion with several VC’s (among others Vincent Chan of Jafco Asia, one of the investors in Tudou). Very interesting, although I felt they were a bit hesitant to promote investing in China. Maybe afraid for competition from European angels? The night ended, as many good nights in Shanghai, in Bar Rouge. Too bad that it started to rain, so we could not have our drinks on the outside balcony, but it was a great location to finish this enervating day anyway.