China Paradigm interviewed Lucas Rondez, the founder of Nihub Innovation Center, China’s leading lending platform for western startups in China, to learn how to successfully building relationships in China for business and raise money.
Lucas Rondez, one of the Top 10 Young Entrepreneurs in Hangzhou, Honorary Citizen of Hangzhou
Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Lucas was raised in an environment where most people around him prefer maintaining the status quo. After working at the Union Bank of Switzerland as the Relationship Manager for more than 7 years, Lucas made a bold decision to quit his job and embark on entrepreneurship in China.
With no background and language skills at all, Lucas landed in Hangzhou, China in 2007. Fortunately, because of his previous experience with private banks, he was offered the position of Brand Manager at the Bank of Zhangzhou and worked there for almost 6 years. In 2014, he switched to Ping An Bank under the Ping An Insurance.
In 2015, having dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur in China for a long time, Lucas created Nihao, an all-English app, to provide life services to China’s expatriate’s community. Shortly after, he started Nihub Innovation Center in 2017 to further help western startups in China land and scale in the business ecosystem in China.
Having Successfully built relationships in China with all kinds of people, in 2017, Lucas was voted as the Top 10 Young Entrepreneurs in Hangzhou as the only foreigner to receive the honor. Subsequently, he was awarded as the Honorary Citizen of Hangzhou in 2018.
Nihub Innovation Center: Powerful backing for western startups in China
Founded in 2017, Nihub Innovation Center has helped more than 60 western startups in China realize their dreams. Other than assisting them with opening up a business and raising money in China, Nihub also operates Nispace, a co-working space, for startups to build relationships in China, one in Hangzhou and one in Qingdao, Shandong.
A lot of Chinese investors hold the strong belief that western startups cannot enter the business ecosystem in China because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the market. Unlike other accelerator platforms, Nihub not only helps ambitious entrepreneurs in China from other countries enter the business ecosystem but also provide them guidance on building relationships in China with all the essential resources for their businesses to succeed.
“When you’re a CEO of a startup in China, you are not only leading a business. You need to lead a team and everything. Our goal is to help you raise money in China through networking, and we care a lot about the after-investment service and support.”
In order to help startups secure investments, Lucas is active in building relationships in China with all kinds of investors and venture capitals to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs. With the strong network in China Lucas and his team have built in the past 10 years, western startups in China only need to work on their ideations and send pitches to him so that he could find the right investors for them.
“It’s all about speed and the strategy of raising money in China, which is to build relationships with the right investors and be aggressive in contacts to make it happen quickly and efficiently.”
Government relationships in China are not as terrifying as it may seem
For many founders of western startups, government relationships in China are one of the most challenging tasks for them to tackle. However, as the Honorary Citizen of Hangzhou, Lucas has successfully established strong government relationships for his businesses during the past decade. According to him, the key to build relationships in China with governmental agencies is to understand that the Chinese government is the same as a big corporate with many departments.
“Every single level of the Chinese government, from district to city to province to the nation, is an institute, but a different kind. Startups in China need support from each level.”
While establishing government relationships in China for his own companies, Lucas discovered that the way to communicate with government officials is much easier than most people thought. He indicated that there is no need to worry about being formal and overcautious when talking with the Chinese government because most of them have a very open mindset.
“Go straight to the point. Introduce what you are doing and explain why it is amazing,” Lucas suggested, “They will only have one simple question for you, ‘How can we help you?’”
Moreover, in his point of view, backing up these western startups is a win-win situation for the governmental agencies. For them, these entrepreneurs in China are also helping the cities where they locate to develop. As long as these startups start to scale, the cities will have more competitiveness on economic growth.
“It is essential to let the government officials understand that the economy is made by startups in China, so they need to support us,” said Lucas.