Alibaba Puts Nearly $450M Into New Funds For Hong Kong And Taiwanese SMBs

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Earlier this year, Alibaba announced two funds to support entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and today the initiatives — which are called the Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation — were officially announced. The Taiwan-based fund is NT$10 billion ($306 million), while the program in Hong Kong is backed by HK$1 billion ($130 million) in cash.

“The mission of the Fund is to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams and visions,” Alibaba explained.

In more detail, both funds will invest in startups and small businesses to help them to grow and develop. It isn’t just using cash, however, but also Alibaba services, technical assistance and training. So, in that respect, it is about helping spur grassroots companies, but it is also very much about Alibaba investing in areas that offer synergies with its core businesses. The company, which held the largest IPO in U.S. history last year, said it is particularly looking to help entrepreneurs and startups that want to sell products to consumers in Mainland China. They’d obviously be encouraged to make use of Alibaba’s e-commerce sites, which include its TMall branded mall, Taobao marketplace and more, its growing cloud computing business and beyond.

(Alibaba is, of course, the largest e-commerce platform in the country — its services grossed a record $14.3 billion in sales on China’s Single’s Day shopping bonanza last week.)

In addition, the fund is non-profit, which means any exits will be put back into the pool to replenish the cash of each fund.

“At Alibaba our mission is to make it easy to do business anywhere. We are passionate about fostering entrepreneurial spirit and hope the resources provided by the fund will help unleash potential for innovation and entrepreneurship in Taiwan [and Hong Kong,]” Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said in a statement.

Cindy Chow, an eight-year Alibaba veteran who was most recently the company’s senior director of international finance, will be executive director of the fund. Alibaba said that the capital would be managed in partnership with local investment firms. VC firm Gobi Ventures was named as the first, but the e-commerce giant “expects to make further selections” to add more variety to the line-up.

In Taiwan, the firm picked ex-EnTie Bank CFO Andrew Lee as executive director. A subsidiary of China Development Industrial Bank was selected as the inaugural fund partner for the country.

The launch of the fund is the second major piece of news for Hong Kong’s startup scene this month. Earlier, MIT announced plans to create an innovation hub in the city-state which will be closely connected to the local startup ecosystem and is aimed to helping young founders, particularly in the hardware space.

Note: The original version of this story was updated after Alibaba announced the fund in Taiwan later the same day.

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