Topics Discussed and Key Points:
● A description of the Shanghai startup scene today and how it compares to France’s and the U.S.’s
● What it is like to be a foreign entrepreneur in China
● How to know whether you should start your business in China
● What most Westerners do not know about F&B in China
● Why Shanghai is not representative of China as a whole
● How the F&B space and food’s fusion with tech has developed over time in China
● The impact of the health and wellness industry on F&B in China
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with serial entrepreneur and angel investor Gregory Prudhommeaux. He is the Founder of NextStep Studio, an accelerator for businesses in food, F&B and food tech-based in Shanghai. He is also a Foreign Trade Advisor for Les Conseillers du Commerce extérieur de la France.
Gregory is the Co-President at La French Tech Shanghai, a community aimed at gathering the local tech community with an interest in France and building bridges between major innovation hubs. The community facilitates the cross-fertilization of competencies and helps French businesses & entrepreneurs to foster their development in China.
Gregory kicks off the conversation with his thoughts on the evolution of Shanghai’s startup scene and how it compares to France’s and the U.S.’s. While many foreigners have seized the opportunity to set up shop in China, it is a difficult process, particularly when it comes to acquiring seed funding.
Unlike France, which offers a number of financing options for the aspiring startup entrepreneur, China is a place where knowing the right person—and knowing how to build a relationship with them—is probably the most important factor. Gregory says that the U.S. is more casual when it comes to networking, whereas “it is a bit trickier” in China.
Calling Shanghai “the Los Angeles or the San Francisco of China”, Gregory says that the technologically advanced city of 25 million does not represent China’s market as a whole. This is for many reasons, including the transitory living situation of many in Shanghai, its multiculturalism, as well as Shanghai’s relative independence from fellow Tier 1 cities and the seat of power in China, Beijing.
Gregory goes on to speak on his journey as an entrepreneur and investor in China and why he specifically chose to specialize in F&B. He explains what sets this space apart compared to the West and how Chinese attitudes toward food and beverage shape the industry. Finally, he describes the merging of food and tech and how COVID-19 accelerated many developments that were already underway.
“As a foreign entrepreneur, you can start a business anywhere around the world; but, I don’t think China is necessarily the place where you want to start. There are a lot of other difficulties, because of the Chinese culture and the Chinese tech landscape which is very different from the rest of the world. Whatever you do in China will have a lot of specificities due to the market and the digital ecosystem.”
“Shanghai is the Los Angeles or San Francisco of China. The administrative and financial power is in Beijing. The industrial power is in Chongqing. [...] Trade is in Guangzhou or Hong Kong. Shanghai is a massive city with 25 million people [...] and very advanced, technologically speaking.”