Despite the slowdown in GDP growth to 6.9 percent in 2015, China is still making aggressive investments to drive the adoption of high technology by local enterprises and organizations, according to Gartner, Inc…
The massive consumer base and the number of internet users in China (estimated at 650 million internet and 980 million mobile internet users in 2016) present the most-promising big data opportunities. Led by hyperscale internet companies such as Baidu (internet traffic data), Alibaba (supply chain and transaction data) and Tencent (social data), approximately 25 percent of businesses have been pursuing the value of big data.
“The government-sponsored strategy ‘Internet Plus’ is targeted at boosting economic growth through digital transformation,” said Jie Zhang, research director at Gartner. “It has issued a detailed action plan for 11 key industries in 2015, mandating the necessity of digital business transformation by leveraging big data and cloud technologies.”
The biggest buzz in China’s internet industry isn’t about besting global tech giants by better adapting existing business models for the Chinese market. Rather, it’s about competing head-to-head with the U.S. and other tech powerhouses in the hottest area of technological innovation: artificial intelligence.
Venture capitalists have been pouring money into startups focused on AI, which broadly refers to efforts to make computers emulate human cognitive functions such as recognizing speech or images. Chinese tech companies such as search giant Baidu have been investing heavily in the technology, and poaching high-level talent from foreign rivals.
Enthusiasts of the technology in China say those resources, along with some particular advantages in China, such as the sheer volume of data generated by its enormous population of internet users, makes this an area where China can excel.
“China is poised to be a leader in AI because of its great reserve in AI talent, excellent engineering education and massive market for AI adoption,” says Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft and Google executive who is now chief executive of Sinovation Ventures. The firm, formerly known as China’s Innovation Works, has invested $100 million in 25 AI-related startups in the U.S. and China in the past three years.
In total, over $1.1B has been deployed across 21 deals to Chinese digital health companies in the first six months of the year. It’s worth noting, though, that three investments each totaled over $100M in financing over the period including Ping An Insurance-backed medical services app Ping An Good Doctor, Beijing-based mobile healthcare app maker Spring Rain Software, and health data mining startup iCarbonX.
The chart above highlights how mega-rounds have propelled China’s digital health investment since 2012. Deal activity in the first half of 2016 was nearly equivalent with that of all of 2015.