In a move that further Balkanizes the Chinese startup world, Alibaba said today that it would spend almost $450 million to fund two new venture capital-type funds in Hong Kong and Taiwan for small companies “who wish to take advantage of the resources offered by Alibaba’s ecosystem.”
That should sound familiar. Alibaba’s chief rivals in China, Tencent and Baidu, have spent the past two years wooing startups to join their orbits, with each trying to convince the country’s 650 million Internet users that they are a one-stop shop. Last year, for instance, Tencent joined four of China’s 10 largest tech venture deals and was involved in deals worth a total of $6.3 billion, according to Preqin, an alternative-assets data company. Alibaba was no slouch either: by the same measure, Alibaba joined $5.6 billion worth of deals.
When it backed startups, Tencent wasn’t explicit in asking those companies use Tencent’s online finance, social network, and back-end support services. Alibaba is being a big more explicit, however. The e-commerce giant offers “e-commerce, logistics, mobile platforms, cloud computing and financial services,” it notes in a statement describing how it will target entrepreneurs who want to take advantage of those services.
Gobi Ventures, a well-known Shanghai venture capital fund, will manage Alibaba’s $130 million Hong Kong fund. A subsidiary of China Development Industrial Bank will manage the $310 Taiwan fund.