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UK firms to enter Chinese dragons' den

By Angus McNeice in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-05-25 00:30

British and European business owners will pitch their ideas to Chinese millionaires next month in a Dragons’ Den-style competition organized by the publisher of Asia’s rich list, the Hurun Report.

Eight heads of small and medium-sized enterprises from several industries will vie for the opportunity to take their products to China and secure investment from 30 high-net-worth Chinese executives in London on June 19.

The Asiability-Hurun ‘New Era - New Opportunity’ Partnership Summit is being organized by Chinese money magazine the Hurun Report and London-based business network Asiability.

Ollie Shiell, founder of Asiability, equates the event to the popular reality television show Dragons’ Den, in which business owners compete for investment from a panel of wealthy venture capitalists.

The identities of the investors are being kept confidential, but Shiell said “several Chinese billionaires” will take part.

Organizers will select the eight finalists from a list of applicants – which totaled 70 at press time. The window for submissions closes on June 5.

“So far, we’ve had applications from companies across all sectors – biotech, real estate, financial services, education, food and beverage – there’s a lot of interest in China,” said Shiell. “We’re mostly interested in medium-sized enterprises that can grow to scale by leveraging outbound Chinese capital, or by finding partners who can help access Chinese markets. It’s more of a scale-up event rather than a start-up event.”

At the summit last year, six businesses were invited to pitch their ideas to Chinese investors, and three companies went on to launch products and services in China for the first time.

“We’re giving businesses in the United Kingdom the skills and confidence to realize the China opportunity,” Shiell said. “Former prime minister David Cameron did a great job of raising the profile of the China opportunity in the UK. But the piece of the puzzle that we need to invest more into is making the UK ‘China-ready’.”

Shiell said his organization aims to teach British executives about cultural and businesses differences that could otherwise hinder collaboration with Chinese partners.

“Both sides have very different traditions in terms of negotiations,” Shiell said. “Sometimes, people believe there is an opportunity there when actually the Chinese counterparts are just being polite. Or they may, in fact, be interested in pursuing an opportunity but the nature of the negotiation is different, and the Western side loses confidence that the opportunity is real.”

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said the summit offers businesses a valuable chance to connect with investors from beyond British borders.

“The Asiability-Hurun platform presents a fantastic opportunity to bring together some of the world’s most influential and successful entrepreneurs,” Branson said.

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