An American entrepreneur walks into a Beijing boardroom to pitch his new mobile phone security application to potential investors. He speaks no Chinese, yet his presentation – as well as his product – resonates with the all-Chinese audience. To pull this off, the entrepreneur, Chris Barnett, and his company, EyeVerify, invested significant time and money in the Chinese market – developing a Chinese version of the app, testing it on native speakers, adjusting for accents and accuracy – all before they stepped foot in China. The US-based startup’s level of commitment at such an early stage impressed investors, and may become the new norm for US Internet companies hoping to move into China, where they don’t always possess a clear market advantage.
EyeVerify has seen success with this strategy. Following the bilingual demos of how the app protects devices using photos of the user’s eye instead of numerical passwords, the company secured US $10 million of funding from Chinese security giant Qihoo 360, Sprint, Wells Fargo, and others.