As the stock markets took the proverbial roller coaster ride in Shanghai and Shenzhen, with many fearing economic misery, Neil Shen was in San Francisco, describing China as a land of financial opportunity.
Shen heads the Chinese operations of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. Two days before, Shen had joined Airbnb in announcing that the American room-sharing startup was entering the Chinese market with backing from Sequoia and another venture fund called China Broadband Capital. Arriving on the tenth anniversary of Sequoia China, he told us during at sit-down at WIRED’s San Francisco offices in mid-August, the deal was part of the firm’s larger effort to move “top American companies” into his home country. Airbnb, he explained, would follow the blueprint that Sequoia helped set in guiding LinkedIn’s business-centric social network into China.
Yes, the Chinese stock markets continue to rumble, sending ripples across markets in Europe and the U.S., and the country’s overall economy in indeed slowing down after a quarter century of unprecedented growth. But despite all this, China remains an enormous opportunity for US internet companies—remember: it’s the world’s second largest economy—and after years on the outside looking in, many companies are now crossing the frontier. That includes not only Airbnb and LinkedIn but ride-hailing startup Uber, which launched in China last year and recently poured another billion dollars into the country, and the online collaboration outfit Evernote, which says it now serves more than 11.5 million local Chinese. What’s more, according to a recent report, Google is eying a return to mainland China, after pulling out nearly a decade ago when Chinese hackers allegedly attacked its internal computing systems.
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