Perceptions of Chinese high-tech companies changing: Skype co-founder

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The perceptions that we have of Chinese hi-tech companies are changing drastically, according to Jonas Kjelberg, the co-founder of Skype.

Skype helped to revolutionize the work of telecommunications making cheap audio and video calls available to anyone with a laptop, PC, tablet or smartphone, but it is not Kjelberg's only success as he has been involved with internet retail businesses Zalando, Rocket Internet Lamoda, Jabong, Avito, and Hallo Fresh.

The Swede spoke exclusively to Xinhua during a short visit to the EAE Business School in Madrid on Friday where he talked about the rise of Chinese hi-tech companies.

He said the former perception of Chinese companies was that now "they are thinking how to innovate and be at the forefront," of technological development.

He gave Swedish car manufacturer Volvo as an example of this change: "If I'd said 20 years ago that Swedish engineers would not be able to figure something out and have to sell it to the Chinese, who will then tell Sweden engineers how to build cars, I would have been laughed at; but that's the reality today," he said.

Kjelberg admitted that "Silicon Valley (California) is still the epicenter of hi-tech innovation," but he believes "the whole mindset of becoming an entrepreneur and building new companies is growing everywhere. You see hubs in Madrid, Barcelona, Stockholm, Shanghai, Beijing..."

"Everywhere there is enormous growth with people trying to catch the next wave of customer products."

Within that growth, China is moving into a leading role. "People underestimate the talent and the money that is being spent in rethinking new technology in China, so I think there is an enormous amount of new companies that are going to come out that will really challenge the way we see things," explained Kjelberg.

The Swede said there was "already a huge market for high-tech products in China," but stressed that China is not an easy high-tech market to enter.

"The challenge for people who are not in China is to get into China. The product market fit is very different there," he said, adding that the issue went both ways. "To some extent, Chinese companies have been struggling with building products that fit the rest of the world."

However, if that situation hasn't changed already thanks to companies such as ZTE and Huawei, then the Skype co-founder believes the change is just around the corner; "there is a rapid shift in that and we see a lot of Chinese companies coming out and being global players," said Kjelberg. 

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