VCs 'turn their backs' on China?May 9, 2012: 10:24 AM ET
By Jeff Richards, contributor
Saw this article in VentureBeat this morning: "As Venture Capitalists Turn Their Backs on China, Funding Dries Up," and it spurred a few thoughts:
1. Good investors invest in good and bad markets. They do their homework and focus on finding the best entrepreneurs even when the markets are cloudy. We invested in Alibaba Group in the early 2000′s when most investors were scared to death of China, and it's been one of the greatest venture investments of all time – anywhere. We consistently put $100M+ to work each year in China and the US, and we will again this year. We've been doing it for 12 years – consistently – and entrepreneurs know they can count on GGV to support them regardless of what the public markets are doing.
2. The bar has been raised. In hot markets, VCs can throw money at copycat concepts and weak businesses in hopes they can "flip" them to the next set of investors (note: this happens in all markets, not just China). This never works over the long run. The bar raises, and VCs have to work hard to find the best companies. I am biased, of course, but believe firms that have been investing locally in China for the long term will have an advantage. They have seen up and down markets, have the strongest relationships with the best entrepreneurs, and have built the infrastructure and teams to do their homework and find the best companies. I know my partners -- as well as many of our stronger, long-term competitors in the market -- have never been more excited.
3. The trends don't lie. There are still 500 million Internet users in China. Android and iOS are taking the mobile phone market – one billion strong – by storm. Consumers are rapidly turning China into the #1 market for every luxury goods maker in the world – from Mercedes to Apple to Coach. If you want disruption on a massive scale, there is no better market than China. Entrepreneurs know it, and the long-term VCs know it.
4). There are risks. I won't go into all the details, but yes there are major risks to investing in China (as there are in any emerging market). They include competitive, regulatory, legal, currency, etc. Some of these risks are why investors have pulled back on China. It can be scary to invest in a new market and, when this happens, ;local investors with local knowledge, local relationships and deep industry knowledge tend to win. As the saying goes "the tourists go home."
There are Chinese companies which went public in 2010 and 2011 which never should have. They were sub-scale without long term, sustainable business models. But that doesn't mean all Chinese companies fit that profile. Ever heard of Qunar, 360Buy or YY? [disclosure: GGV is an investor in Qunar and YY]. They are very real companies with very real business models and massive user bases. As it has on the VC side, the bar has been raised for IPOs, and we think that is a good thing.
But make no mistake – despite the VentureBeat headline t – not all venture capitalists are turning their backs on China. The long-term investors are hunkering down, backing the best entrepreneurs and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Jeff Richards (@jrichlive) is a partner with venture capital firm GGV Capital.