Startups across the world participated in a competition hosted by Chinese conglomerate Fosun at the technology conference Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon on Thursday, with a view to gain funding and support to expand into China's giant market.
The competition's strong turnout comes at a time when Chinese venture capital funds are investing into pioneering technologies that have market potential in China.
"We're looking for Chinese investors who can support us to commercialise, manufacture and distribute our products across China's massive market," said Vitor Crespo, 44-year-old founder of Criam, which won first place at the Protechting competition.
As the winner, Criam picked up a prize of 10,000 euros ($11,430), but Crespo said he values more the opportunity to participate in a two-week roadshow across China next month, where Fosun will introduce Criam to its own network of Chinese partner investors.
"It's really hard for us to get funding as a small startup, but having Fosun's backing will give us credibility," said Crespo.
Founded in 2016, Criam makes portable and cost-effective blood testing machines that can help patients detect illnesses. Confident that these machines can find popularity with Chinese hospitals, Crespo is looking to fundraise $3 million when he pitches to Chinese investors.
After that, Crespo said his team will work to manufacture these machines in China, sell to Chinese hospitals, and then leverage on the success to distribute into healthcare markets such as Europe, the US, India and Australia.
Portuguese advertising technology company Wall-I came second in the competition, and in third place was French company CopSonic, which provides connectivity between electronic devices. Wall-I and CopSonic will also participate in Fosun-hosted roadshow.
In its third year, the Protechting competition attracted entries from 287 startups in 33 countries. Fosun co-hosted the competition with the Portugal-based insurer Fidelide, which it acquired in 2014.
Fosun started the competition partly to promote its brand overseas, but also uses it as a platform to develop innovative international partnerships. Criam, for instance, currently works with Hospital da Luz, which Fosun has investments in.
Only 12 finalists from Protechting were selected to make live pitches at Lisbon's Web Summit this week, which is Europe's largest tech event and gathered more than 1,800 startups and 1,500 tech investors.
China's venture capital market leads the world, according to the latest stats from China Money Network's China VC Tracker. In April this year alone, Chinese venture capital funds made investments into 209 startups, whose combined market valuation stood at $15.6 billion. This is 166 percent higher than the US equivalent.
Meanwhile, outbound Chinese venture capital investment is also growing. Forecasts issued by the research company Rhodium Group shows Chinese venture capital funds' investment into Silicon Valley start-ups is on track to achieve another record year in 2018, after a record 2017.
Just like Criam, Wall-I and CopSonic, more international startups are now vying to crack the Chinese market by participating in such competitions.
One key example is the China Internet+ College Graduate Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competitions, which attracted more than 600 projects from over countries and regions this year.
Zhu Lei, a founder of the competition, who is at Web Summit this week to promote it, said such events are efficient channels for global startups to familiarize with China's market and business environment, and to access leading Chinese investors.
"Through such competitions, Chinese investors can also efficiently spot early stage startups around the world, and through investment and partnerships help them tailor their products and solutions towards China's market," said Lei.
"Such win-win collaboration is a process enabling China to achieve high quality economic growth and share the fruits of this growth with innovative entrepreneurs all around the world," he said.