In China’s tech industry, major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen tend to hog most of the limelight. They have the most venture capital firms, the largest tech communities, and the most startups. However, global accelerator Startupbootcamp is choosing Chengdu – a city in Sichuan province best known for its pandas – as the location for its first accelerator in China.
“The opportunities for digital health in China are vast, not only in the Sichuan region, but within the entire China,” stated Carsten Kølbek, co-founder of Startupbootcamp, in a press release. “The big demand for better health services by the fast growing middle-class and the liberation of the private insurance market requires new and scalable solutions fast.”
Startupbootcamp is accepting applications starting today for its Chengdu program, the first of ten China-based accelerators it plans to roll out in the next three years. The program will focus on digital health – tech applications in healthcare – and will run for three months starting in May. For its first China-based initiative, the global accelerator is partnering with Thinkzone, a private Chinese incubator that works with companies in mobile internet, software R&D, and digital media.
After Chengdu, the next Startupbootcamp China program will be in Shanghai.
“There’s really a need to expand in China,” Steven Tong, managing director of Startupbootcamp Asia, tells Tech in Asia. “The [Chinese government’s innovation] movement is really strong in China now.”
“If we’re not part of this wave, it just doesn’t make sense,” he says.
The ten startups selected for the Chengdu program will receive US$14,000 in seed funding, and have access to mentors from industry specialists as well as local partners and investors. They’ll also be able to work with Thinkzone and Startupbootcamp’s healthcare partners in Chengdu for testing and product development. For example, one of the accelerator’s partners is a clinic with a patient base of 15 million patients, says Steven.
“This is an opportunity where they can match suitable startups with patients that they are already serving, have them pilot […] and make use of the data, to improve the product,” he says. “This is a very tangible way how we really want to help grow and scale the startups’ businesses here.”
Startupbootcamp is looking for startups that can bring existing digital health solutions into China or create something completely new, Steven says. For example, artificial intelligence applications in health could be especially relevant to the Chinese market, where doctors tend to be overworked with extremely heavy caseloads.
“If AI can be used in part of the diagnostic process – I’m not saying replacing the doctor – just to improve productivity, that’s obviously something that would be of great help and would create an impact in the healthcare system here,” he says.
With program director Christina Pamela Christiansen and COO Feng Jingyue, Steven will take a three-month tour through Asia to identify and select teams. The Chengdu program’s first cohort will be a mix of international and local teams: the accelerator is trying to position itself as a launchpad for overseas teams interested in the Chinese market, as well as for Chinese teams with global ambitions.