Intel seeks out Chinese challengers

02 December 2011

BEIJING: Intel, the technology giant, is seeking to identify innovative Chinese start-ups that can support its focus on creating products reflecting the trend towards "new mobility".

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital, the organisation's venture capital arm, revealed it had provided financial backing to ten firms in Greater China this year.

In all, Intel Capital has spent $70m on such deals in China this year, from a total of $500m worldwide, and it expects the Asian nation to receive more substantial resources in 2012.

Among the local operators benefiting from Intel's funding were Outblaze Venture Holdings, which develops apps and mobile games, and Makepolo, a search engine helping small businesses find new products, and Miartech, an energy management firm.

Sodhani suggested the diverse range of industries covered by these enterprises showed Intel's "multi-fold" interests in fields from software to more directly commercial concerns.

More specifically, hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets will be an area of emphasis, both in their own right and with regard to related goods and services.

"There is a seismic shift taking place to mobility," said Sodhani. He added that many Chinese firms have created innovative solutions and business models, at least partly as legacy technology such as PCs have not achieved high levels of penetration.

Several brand owners have expressed anxiety about spending money in China, linked to worries over intellectual property protection, uneven regulation and fears of an asset "bubble" in the tech sector.

However, Sodhani was positive on the local outlook, arguing: "[Intel Capital] is the largest foreign direct investor in China and we feel very welcome."

"Valuations are always a concern, and from time to time valuations go out of whack," he added.

At present, Intel Capital allocates around half its resources to ventures out the US, and Sodhani reported that it planned to be "very aggressive" in core emerging markets like China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

In demonstration of this new focus, the company also recently made its first investments in South Africa and Turkey.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff