China Opportunities Abound for U of M Startups
For University of Minnesota startups, China presents a hot market for those who know how to engage. That's the takeaway from a workshop and networking event held Wednesday evening by the U's Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) Venture Center.
Participants, including U of M faculty and researchers, graduate students, and postdocs, as well as business advisers and startup executives, learned about the unique opportunities and challenges offered by the China market. A panel including an executive from Boston Scientific, two local startup founders with ties to China, a China resource consultant, and an OTC expert discussed three essential ways that entrepreneurs can engage the China market—for production needs, for new consumers, and for investment capital.
Jon Brodd took part in the panel discussion to share his company's experience in the Chinese market. Brodd is CEO of Vigilant Diagnostics, a U of M med-tech spin-off firm that develops advanced sensor technology products, with an initial focus on medical and food safety diagnostics. "With my previous company, I had 15 years of experience working with China in fundraising, manufacturing contracts, joint research and development, as well as production," he explained. "Given that background, as an entrepreneur I'm very encouraged by the rapid pace of Chinese development, coupled with the need for low-cost and highly sensitive diagnostic technology. We are seeing broad demand to leapfrog some existing technologies."
Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center, explained that the opportunities between the US and China flow both ways. "There is a tremendous amount of interest in China from US investors, entrepreneurs, and companies trying to take advantage of all the different opportunities evolving there. At the same time, in China there's a lot of interest in figuring out how to get engaged in US opportunities to make money or bring US companies into China to create business opportunities."
China's increasing demand for advanced health care services as well as their need to address pollution issues creates a natural fit for the offerings of Minnesota startups, according to Straate. "Medical devices and clean-tech products are in very high demand in China. We have a strong research team and environment for these sectors inside the University of Minnesota, so we are well-placed to take advantage of China opportunities," he said.
Kirsten previously served as marketing and outreach director for economic development in the Office of the Vice President for Research.