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Hangzhou turns magnet for unicorns

By LIU YUKUN/MA ZHENHUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-14 08:01
A customer selects his food via an ordering machine supported by Alibaba's facial recognition technology at a restaurant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Provided to China Daily

The growing number of unicorn companies in Hangzhou is boosting the development of the country's new economy, according to Wu Aiqi, a professor at the School of Management of Zhejiang University.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, is home to 26 unicorn companies-startups valued at over $1 billion-and more than 100 soon-to-be unicorns, according to data released by weLian, a high-tech firm located in Hangzhou, at a recent forum held in the city.

The unicorn companies in Hangzhou-where the internet tech giant Alibaba is based-rank third in volume after Beijing and Shanghai, and second in value after Beijing.

"The city is playing a significant part in boosting China's high-quality economic growth," Wu said.

The unicorn companies have become the forerunners in the country's development of new technologies and a digital economy.

To date, China has 55 unicorn companies out of a total of 214 globally, with Alibaba's Ant Financial and Didi Chuxing topping the list, according to data released by CB Insights, a US-based venture capital database.

According to a 2017 report from Torch High Technology Industry Development Center-an institute under the Ministry of Science and Technology-unicorns in Hangzhou are valued at $133.5 billion, accounting for 27 percent of the country's total in 2016, with their focus mainly on e-commerce and internet financing.

In addition, many of the unicorns in Hangzhou have received investment from the Alibaba Group.

"The success of Alibaba has set a good example for startups," said Wu, acknowledging the important role played by Alibaba in boosting the development of the unicorns in Hangzhou. "They think they can be just the same."

"Moreover, top institutes in the city, such as Zhejiang University, have offered tech support for their development," Wu added.

Wu also said that the unicorns in Hangzhou have attracted and will continue to attract investors in many sectors around the globe, helping to create a better business environment.

Hangzhou released a plan in October last year to attract financing firms as well as top talents from all over the world.

"Hangzhou embraces new tech and welcomes new businesses, which is unique compared with other cities," said Gong Hongjia, an angel investor who has profited from previous investments in Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co, in an interview with local media.

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