The Chinese copycat has turned innovator. China, once the home of pirated DVDs and lookalike gadgets, has proved a trailblazer for many in Silicon Valley. Its integrated payments apps have been imitated by Facebook and Google. The super app concept given birth to by China’s WeChat is being aped by Uber (via Southeast Asian wannabes such as Grab and Gojek). But the most copied Made in China features last year were spectacular cash burn and initial public offering (IPO) flops.

China rivals the US when it comes to unicorns; the Chinese-based Hurun Institute puts China ahead by a whisker with 206. These include some of the world’s biggest, including Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of tech giant Alibaba, and ByteDance. Several have characteristics shared by a later breed of US tech start-ups. These have included SoftBank funding that helped grant them larger-than-life valuations. 

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now