Beijing falls behind Singapore in global start-up ecosystem ranking amid US-China tech war

Beijing has fallen three places from 2022 to No 8 in the latest ranking of the world’s top 40 start-up ecosystems, as a weak domestic economy and growing tensions with Washington deter investment interest in China’s capital.

Silicon Valley came out on top, while New York and London were tied in second place, according to the latest Global Start-up Ecosystem Ranking (GSER) published by research firm Startup Genome.

Singapore, in seventh place, was the top-ranking Asian city this year. Seoul and Tokyo stood at No 9 and 10, respectively.

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The GSER report ranks start-up hubs by five measures: funding, performance, market reach, talent and experience, and knowledge. While Beijing received nearly full marks in the last four categories, it scored the lowest among the top 10 cities in the funding category.

The Chinese capital, which reached its highest overall ranking of No 3 in 2019, suffered largely from a drop in funding deals and successful exits, according to the report. During the 30 months preceding the end of 2023, the city recorded 223 Series A deals to place 11th globally, while marking only 60 exits to rank 58th.

The Chinese government’s years-long crackdown on the technology sector has driven investments away from the country’s consumer internet sector, once fertile ground for unicorns – start-ups valued at more than US$1 billion. Escalating rivalry between the world’s two largest economies has also weighed on sentiment, according to investors and industry experts.

Some US-based limited partners, in particular pension funds, have reduced their capital allocations in China, according to Conrad Chan, partner at Deloitte China’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Programme, quoted in a blog post published in March last year by investment consultancy Preqin.

Chinese investors have also been hindered by US curbs on access to capital, talent and technology, according to Ben Harburg, founder and managing partner at MSA Capital, cited in the Preqin post.

In the first quarter this year, venture capital investments in China slumped by 30 per cent from the previous quarter, the lowest in four years, according to a report in April by KPMG.

Despite the challenges, Beijing still led Asian cities in ecosystem value, as measured by the value of exits and start-up valuations from the second half of 2021 up to the end of 2023, according to the GSER report.

At US$525 billion, the ecosystem value of the Chinese technology hub was almost five times that of Singapore, and 10 times that of Tokyo. During the period, Beijing had 16 exits each worth at least US$1 billion, second only to Silicon Valley globally.

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