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Legendary tech investor Michael Moritz says that 'people underestimate China, especially in Europe'

Sequoia Capital chairman Michael MoritzSequoia CapitalSequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz.

Sir Michael Moritz, chairman of one of the biggest and best-known venture capital companies in the world, believes that the West is underestimating the size and scale of Chinese technology companies.

The Cardiff-born Sequoia Capital chairman reminded Business Insider yesterday at the launch of Skyscanner’s new London office that seven of the world’s 21 largest technology companies are Chinese, pointing to firms such as Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent.

“People underestimate China, especially in Europe,” said the Oxford graduate who now lives in San Francisco. “They have very little sense of the size, strength, and scale of ambition of the leading Chinese technology companies.

“It takes a long time for perception to catch up with reality so most people’s perception of China is 20 years behind the times.”

Founded in 1972, Sequoia has backed startups that now command $1.4 trillion (£930 billion) of combined stock market value, equivalent to 22% of Nasdaq, according to a Forbes article from last year.

Sequoia, based on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto, California, has built up its reputation after investing in many of America’s hugely successful technology companies when they were young, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo.

But now it seems to be broadening its horizons, with over 50% of its money now being spent outside the US, according to Moritz.

Mortiz said a “large market, a large supply of extremely talented people and great ambition” are the main reasons why Chinese technology companies are scaling into mega corporations with huge revenues and profits.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner CEOSkyscannerSkyscanner CEO Gareth Williams received investment from Sequoia.

One of Sequoia’s non-US investments is Scottish startup Skyscanner — a platform that allows people to find and book flights, hotels and cars. Interestingly, Skyscanner has a significant presence in China.

Skyscanner employees over 800 people worldwide, with 45 staff spread between Shenzhen and Beijing in China, where it has chanced its name to “Tianxun”.

“There are not too many UK technology companies doing business in China: Skyscanner is one of them,” said Moritz, who came top of the Midas list, a ranking of the world’s best investors in 2007 following his investment in Google.

“China is a very culturally distinct and very special country that we’re addressing with a long-term view,” said Skyscanner’s media team via email.

“We believe that to have the best travel site for Chinese customers we need to ensure we are developing the product within China by experienced travel tech specialists who understand the needs of the Chinese travellers: which is why we have an office there. So, for example there in-app payment is the norm, so we accept payment through Alipay there.

“We’re still growing at a huge rate there. Between 2013 and 2015 our visitors in China grew by 207% and our mobile visitors grew by 397%.”

While Skyscanner already has two offices in China it has only just got round to opening an office in London, where it hopes to tap into the city’s well-established tech network and employ up to 28 people in predominantly engineering roles.

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