As 5G commercialization ambition grows and Sino-US tensions remain uncertain, startups are also joining the industry. While Chinese startups find the competition fierce and the market situation fast-changing, international startups will encounter larger obstacles such as localization and efficient cooperation building.

TechNode interviewed Mr. Pere Duran, the Event Director at 4YFN, a for-startup business platform which aims to connect emerging enterprises to greater global innovation ecosystem, to learn 4YFN’s thoughts on China’s startup ecosystem, and how the platform brings startups into high-threshold professional industries.

The name 4YFN stands for 4 Years From Now, the time it takes startups to completely validate their business models. Established in Spain 5 years ago, 4YFN will be having its 3rd annual show at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai 2018 from June 27 to June 29, supporting startups in the broader mobile industry and taking global innovations to China. Rebranded under MWC, the world’s largest mobile, telecom, and communication exhibition, MWC Shanghai is becoming a key show-stage and trend sneak-peek event of Asia’s related industries.

Chinese startups and the international ecosystem

“Chinese startups share the same tech trends as the broader international mobile ecosystem and we are witnessing VC’s focus on the industry,” Mr. Duran told TechNode. The recent ZTE case is shadowing the Chinese mobile and communication industry with political concerns, but the general technological market and innovation sides show global similarities.

Mr. Pere Duran, Event Director at 4YFN (Image Credit: GSMA and 4YFN)

“The startup market is attracting considerable attention in the 5G and IoT sectors, together with its application in vertical industries like AI, Fintech, and Robotics to name a few,” Mr. Duran added, specifying highlights of the trends.

He explained to TechNode that promoted by GSMA, the institution behind Mobile World Congress, and Mobile World Capital Barcelona, 4YFN is strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “With the support of public and private institutions, we are transforming business relationships, creating an open platform for discovery and creation.”

Connecting startups with the broader industry

4YFN connects startups with the telecom and communications industries through a series of exclusive networking activities, interactive discussions and workshops, and events like 4YFN at MWC Shanghai. Though still young in the broader Chinese entrepreneurial ecosystem, the startup business platform has had some success stories supporting startups entering greater China.

“One of the startups that comes to mind is ‘Adele Robots’. Adele Robots improves people’s lives using robotics. They have attended our events in China multiple times. 4YFN Shanghai was the environment for them to connect with investors and companies allowing them to expand their business in China.”

He went on saying, “Another example would be Mailtime, an email messenger app that makes traditional email as quick and easy as text messaging. Mailtime was the 4YFN Shanghai 2017 Award winner. Following their award, Mailtime received partnership opportunities from phone manufacturers and consumer insight subscribers.”

When asked what international startups shall keep in mind when planning to enter a vibrant but sophisticated market like China, Mr. Duran explained, “Our recommendation, for any overseas startup looking to do business in China, is to carefully consider your strategy, business model, market penetration and, most importantly, identify the right local partner.”

MWC Shanghai 2018 startup highlights and future plans

MWC Shanghai 2018 also has a Startup Pitching session, every day during the 3-day event. Selected startups will have the chance to introduce and showcase their projects to international investors.

“Startups will always be at the center of our platform,” Mr. Duran stressed, “We have a great line up of finalists this year at the 4YFN Awards competition.” According to him, 10 startups selected as 4YFN Awards competition finalists will each be given 3 minutes to convince professional panel judges to standout from competitors and secure cooperation opportunities. The 4YFN pitching session is scheduled for June 28 (Thursday).

Mr. Duran revealed the finalists of the 4YFN Awards at MWC Shanghai 2018 during the interview:

  1. Shanghai Tuoxiao Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd (China)
  2. KARR (Thailand)
  3. Capture3D (Spain)
  4. Elevoc Technology (China)
  5. IRYStec Software Inc. (Canada)
  6. Fonda Technology Co., Ltd (China)
  7. Onedot Inc. (Project Name: Babily) (China, Japan)
  8. Roamability (USA)
  9. Sentiance (Belgium, China)

“A good startup pitch should focus on key areas like their business model and the market opportunity,” he explained. Easier said than done, highlighting business models and market situations in a few minutes is more than a speech techniques and a founder’s charisma – core competitiveness is the key.

The 4YFN Awards’ finalists are also showing an increasing amount of Asian tech companies and innovation makers. Mr. Duran confirmed that Asia is a huge blueprint for 4YFN in the near future.

“4YFN has very ambitious plans in China and Southeast Asia. We believe Shanghai holds a unique position as the financial center of the country, a great tech hub with a lot of growth potential. We would like to continue to strengthen our 4YFN event in Shanghai, building on its extensive talent, software environment, public and private acceleration programs, and consumer market.”

He added, “Currently we are exploring the opportunity to host standalone events in other cities in China, Taiwan or South Korea, another example of 4YFN strengthening and connecting the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Runhua Zhao is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Connect with her via email:

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