As research from the Startup Genome is beginning to show, the world has become a global entrepreneurial playing field, as cities from Tel Aviv to Santiago evolve into thriving startup ecosystems, becoming both regional and global engines of job creation. With such a large, increasingly Internet-connected population, China, too, has become an important part of this conversation for web startups. (See TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing.) In spite of the huge market opportunities, however, historically it’s been tricky for foreign technology businesses to gain significant traction inside the Eastern power. (Groupon, anyone?)
Today, a consortium of Chinese and American financial institutions are looking to change that by launching Silicon Valley’s first U.S.-China tech accelerator, called InnoSpring. The new incubator officially opened its doors today, giving the world a sneak peek at its first batch of 12 startups, which will be making their home in the company’s new 13,500 square-foot facility in Santa Clara, Calif.
The accelerator itself was established by a joint partnership between Tsinghua University Science Park (TusPark), Shui On Group (Shui On), Northern Light Venture Capital (NLVC) and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). And, during its ribbon-cutting event today, at which more than 100 investors turned out to see its new digs, the Sino-American accelerator also announced its new Seed Fund, backed by both Chinese and American VC firms. The seed fund is being backed by Kleiner Perkins, Northern Light VC, GSR Ventures, China Broadband Capital, and TEEC Angel Fund.
Thanks to these contributions, the 15 companies which InnoSpring plans to select every six months for its “Seed Program” will receive an initial $25K investment at the outset of the program, with the potential to receive an additional $250K in capital from TEEC upon graduation. As to the equity stake InnoSpring is taking? Zhang says that will be decided on a case-by-case basis, but I’d expect the average to be in the one to five percent range.
As it stands today, InnoSpring is the first accelerator to focus on supporting American and Chinese startups to expand beyond their home countries and, although it will be in part focused on jumpstarting Chinese startups, its program is not restricted to founders hailing from China, it is also looking to seed American startups with Chinese expansion strategies — in both the long-term and the short-term.
Like those tech accelerators before it, InnoSpring will be offering a mix of services and support for its startups, including funding, mentoring, workshops, in-house resources like accounting, bookkeeping, and paralegal advisement, access to VCs and angel investors, as well as physical office space and professional services for both U.S. and Chinese startups looking to increase cross-border development.
InnoSpring is being managed by Eugene Zhang, the co-founder of the TEEC Angel Fund and JEDA Technologies (and also formerly of Juniper Networks, Cisco and Sun). Zhang and team have located some impressive office space, which can accommodate as many as 40 startups during the accelerator’s 6-month startup bootcamp.
If it wasn’t made clear by the accelerator’s impressive collection of founding financial partners, seed fund investors, or the fact that it’s a 6-month program, InnoSpring is showing that it wants to be a full-service resource for Chinese and American startups by going beyond its “Seed Program.”
In a move that’s somewhat unusual for domestic accelerators, it’s offering both “Pre-Seed” and “Post-Seed” programs, aimed at both helping very early-stage companies get off the ground by providing office space, mentoring, and help with raising seed fund, as well as giving more established tech startups the ability to find workspace in satellite offices of big corporations, among others, which are in turn looking to tap into that energetic startup environment.
If an accelerator is serious about kickstarting viable companies, ensuring that they have the resources and office space to grow their businesses — both before and after they’re at a seed-ready stage — can be critically important to the difference between building a viable company and stuttering along the road to the deadpool.
What’s more, the accelerator has established what it calls a “China Gateway Program”, which is intended to provide domestic startups with strategy consulting services that help them design the most effective approach to entering the Chinese market. In turn, for Chinese startups looking to come to Silicon Valley, InnoSpring offers integrated services, like virtual offices and office hours, to connect Chinese startups to American talent and help them establish business in the U.S.
InnoSpring also today unveiled its inaugural batch of startups, some of which will be beginning the accelerator’s 6-month program this month. So, without further ado, here is a brief look at InnoSpring’s first 12 startups. Note: Most of these startups are in stealth mode or in early-stages of growth (with the exception of Hillstone Networks, which is China-based), and a number of them do not yet have websites, but stay tuned for more.
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