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To hear Jason Kay tell it, the opportunities in and around China are downright mythical.
While “unicorn companies” may not be as splendid to look at as their equine counterparts, the potential of China’s investment markets is still pretty magical. The partner at AID Partners, a Hong Kong-based private investment firm, spent a few minutes with us recently over the phone to lay out his ideal schedule for GamesBeat 2015. The upcoming event, hosted at the San Francisco Grand Hyatt Union Square on October 12 and 13, will have a dialogue about investing in esports. During that session, Kay will talk about investing in China.
Both Kay and AID Partners are comparatively new to the Chinese investment scene, and Kay is the very first employee from the United States that the firm hired. A self-described “big-eyed newbie,” Kay’s first major revelation was the cultural bias against outside firms, both in China and the United States.
“If they don’t operate in China,” Kay said. “[T]hey aren’t on anyone’s radar.”
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The shared-goods services industry in particular seems to suffer from disinterest on the Chinese side. While Uber has managed a foot-hold, providers like Airbnb have had little traction when it comes to garnering mainland interest. Kay explains it as primarily a result of China’s dichotomy between rural communities and major city areas (known as DMAs, or designed market area.) The former has no real infrastructure or need to support shared-goods, and the later still favors Stateside investments.
Said rural communities are also behind, according to Kay, on the move out of a legal system built more on self-reliance than laws. The lack of active police forces outside of China’s metropolises makes enforcing policies against the rare abuser of shared-goods — that one person that trashes a room on Airbnb — difficult.
“China is still moving into what I would call a fully functioning system of laws,” said Kay. “A system of laws not men.”
But inside any one of China’s reported 15 mega-cities (the DMAs) the business environment is entirely different. The urban population of China represents a continuing growth industry when it comes to technology. In China there are, Kay reports, over 100 app stores just on Android. Broaden that to include all mobile platforms, and the enormity of China’s potential market is hard to overstate.
“There are hundreds of million of phone users in China,” Kay said. “[It’s] bigger than AT&T.”
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