By now nearly everyone knows that China has emerged as an increasingly massive and very lucrative market — it’s not for nothing that Apple is doubling down its sales efforts in the country, Facebook is said to be very keen to establish a foothold there, and Evernote has gone so far as to rebuild its entire system from the ground up to offer a totally standalone China-specific version of its service.
But because of major differences in culture, language, business practices, and the like, it is incredibly challenging for even the most well-capitalized of U.S.-based technology companies to break into the Chinese market. And for small U.S.-based startups, it’s nearly impossible. The same is true in reverse: Chinese startups have a very tough time entering into the U.S. market and gaining traction here.
That’s where a new startup incubator called Innospring is looking to help. Touting itself as the first U.S.-China startup incubator in Silicon Valley, Innospring opened its doors on April 11 with the goal of helping technology startups with roots in the United States expand into the Chinese market, and vice versa — to give China-based startups the tools and connections to expand into the U.S.
Startups that participate in Innospring receive the typical incubator perks — funding, mentoring, workshops, access to VCs and angel investors, physical space — and most importantly, special referrals to help foster cross-border development. Right now, there are fewer than 20 startups in the program, and the current space it is in has room to house some 40 more.
The whole program is backed by some big names in both countries: Tsinghua University Science Park, Shui On Group, Northern Light Venture Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank are all founding partners, and people such as Kleiner Perkins investment partner Wei Zhou have stopped by to provide mentorship and advice to the entrepreneurs there.
So, TechCrunch TV stopped by to check out how things are going so far at Innospring’s office in Santa Clara, Calif. In the video above, you can watch its founder Eugene Zhang discuss the idea behind starting Innospring, why the U.S. and China have such a gap between them right now, the incubator’s plans for the future, and more.
And in the video below, you can watch the pitches from a number of startups who are in the Innospring program today — a wide variety of companies are there already, from a semiconductor maker, to a health app developer, to a food sample delivery service, to a super innovative Facebook gaming company, and others.