What’s unique about China’s startup scene? How can big companies get better at innovating? How should companies of all sizes speed up their response to climate change?

These were just some of the questions tackled at the launch event of the Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) in China, a community that connects startups and investors and promotes education around entrepreneurship.

Boosting the Chinese startup ecosystem

IMD program Alumna and event organizer Xu Lin Grace said: “As the world's second largest economy, China plays a pivotal role on the world stage. IMD has brought its Alumni Community of Entrepreneurship to the country to help its Chinese alumni turn their ambitions of innovation and entrepreneurship into reality."

How to navigate entrepreneurship in a complex and changing environment was a key topic of discussion.

Jessica Zhu, head of retail platform Plug and Play, said that while the current business climate is volatile, entrepreneurs shouldn’t panic. To succeed they should focus on high-quality innovation, she added.  

For James Chou, President of Microsoft Accelerator, the fact that China now has a 400 million strong middle class is a reason for optimism. He believes that while China is currently undergoing a structural transformation, challenges and opportunities coexist.

Albert Jiang, President of iGEnesiis Group, agrees. He said business leaders and startup founders must find new ways to increase profitability.

Erik Forsberg, CEO of InnoBridge, stressed the need to incorporate economic, geographical and political context into decisions about transforming businesses.

Measuring success

Speaking about how to measure the success or failure of innovation initiatives, Mark Li, General Manager of Tencent Chuang Space, said that innovation can cannibalize existing businesses, a factor that makes larger companies slower at doing it. He concluded that good innovation should improve a company’s interaction with its consumers, optimize operations, and be driven collaboratively across the organization.  

"If you don’t fail, you're not innovative enough," he said.

The China chapter of the IMD Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship is scheduled to hold four large events in 2020.

They will feature business leaders, IMD faculty and alumni, as well as startups and investors with the aim of contributing to accelerating the startup ecosystem in China.

IMD ACE's mission is to promote the development and consolidation of business ventures/startups, proposed and launched by IMD participants, to make entrepreneurship accessible to Alumni and to foster an ecosystem aimed at facilitating mentoring and the funding of business projects as an engine for innovation and growth.