Chinese school students and white-collar workers are not the only ones trying to make the best of being confined to home for study and work amid the coronavirus outbreak—now some of the country’s most frequent travelers are doing the same when it comes to making deals.
Startup entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are replacing face to face meetings with online ones as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, resulting in more than 1,100 deaths and 44,000 infections in China as of Wednesday.
Sequoia Capital, one of the country’s biggest names for tech investment, is set to move its matchmaking meetings between startups and investors online for the first time.
Nearly 30 startups and more than 50 venture capital firms have signed up for the online financing and investment matchmaking events, according to a post on Sequoia’s official WeChat account on Wednesday.
The first teleconference is expected to roll out next Tuesday via Zoom, on the theme of corporate services and technology, followed by an online event focusing on consumer and service sectors.
“The epidemic, causing inconvenience for travel and meetings, has brought challenges for investors and entrepreneurs to manage the pace of fundraising,” the venture capital firm said in its post, adding that the cloud-based meetings are designed to help “quality” companies secure funding without taking the risk of going out amid the health scare.
At least 24 of China’s 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions, including Beijing and Shanghai, told businesses not to reopen before Monday at the earliest in an effort to contain the outbreak.
Many employees have been working from home since the end of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 2, using apps such as Alibaba Group’s DingTalk and Tencent’s WeChat Work to work remotely.
According to data from App Annie, DingTalk and WeChat Work saw downloads across China’s app stores surge 350% and 70% respectively during Chinese New Year compared to the week before.
Having experienced the SARS epidemic in 2003, Neil Shen, founding partner of Sequoia Capital China, expects the outbreak to pose a big test for young companies as they cope with “fluctuations” in fundraising as well as business operations.
Making early plans and “taking precautions against a rainy day” are especially crucial for startups trying to raise funds, Sequoia said in a WeChat post.
The Sequoia move comes as the epidemic continues to sow uncertainty among tens of millions of small businesses in the country. According to the latest economic census by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the world’s second largest economy had 63 million “self-employed businesses” at the end of 2018, which collectively provided 150 million jobs.
Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.