Thinking of venturing into the China market? Learn from Singapore-based start-up PatSnap.

To venture into a new market is exciting, but it requires a lot of careful research. PatSnap, a former BLOCK71-resident start-up, has made the journey into the China market a few years ago. PatSnap provides tools that help business leaders, analysts, researchers, engineers, and IP professionals to make business-focused decisions by unlocking Intellectual Property data and insights.

NUS and NOC Alumni, Guan Dian, who was also recently named in Forbes Asia ’30 under 30’ for Enterprise Technology, is one of the founding members of PatSnap and currently helms the role of Vice President, APAC. As Guan Dian has been the one responsible for successfully bringing in PatSnap’s first clients in the China market, and for developing PatSnap’s brand and presence there, we decided to approach her to get insights and tips on how a Singaporean startup can venture into the China market.

1) Why did you decide on expanding to Suzhou, China? At which stage was your start-up at in Singapore before you decided it was time to venture out?
There were two Reasons back then: 1. Cost advantage (which is no longer obvious); 2. Market opportunity in China. It was quite early stage before we even found full product-market fit.

2) What were some of the challenges you did face when you first started out?
All kinds of challenges from company registration, obtaining working Visa for overseas founders and employees, to talent acquisition and winning first group of customers. Essentially it is the same kind of challenges you would face when you first start in Singapore. On the administrative side, China has made it easier to start new businesses, and grants and incentives are offered to businesses with solid technology and those seen to have a positive impact on the industry and economy.

3) Besides the very obvious difference in market size between Singapore and China, what is the difference between the two markets?
The two markets are largely different in most aspects. Starting in China is like starting up from scratch, especially in terms of market acquisition because you cannot leverage much from whatever you have achieved in Singapore. The entire strategy needs to be localized. Furthermore, China is so big and each region has its own culture and different level of sophistication, therefore it sometimes requires different strategies to win in different regions.

4) How is the start-up ecosystem like in China?
It is very vibrant. Plenty of angel investment community, VCs, PEs are around and active. Promising start-ups get access to massive resources. At the same time, it is very competitive and the pace is fast.

5) How has being with NUS Enterprise as a launch pad, helped you in venturing into the China market? (Connecting you to VCs and other stakeholders in the ecosystem, other benefits)
Through NUS Enterprise we get better access to local governments and potential partners. We got help with grant application which benefitted us both in terms of financial and reputation.

6) Share 3 pieces of advice which you would give to a fellow start-up founder from Singapore who intends to expand to China.
1. Be prepared to localize everything; 2. Spend enough time here to get first-hand experience of the market. 3. Be patient and open-minded.

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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