Seek Certainty in Uncertainty: Accelerating the Reconstruction of Industry Chains

Alibaba Cloud
6 min readDec 3, 2020

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Everyone wants to be innovative and entrepreneurial, but the reality is that the environment is highly uncertain.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship is a game for the brave from the moment it begins.” This is a quote taken from Liu Xiangwen, Vice President of Alibaba Cloud AI and General Manager of Marketing and the Public Affairs Department, at the Apsara Conference 2020 on September 17.

In this game, this year’s contestants need more courage.

“For those innovative entrepreneurs, the market is changing rapidly. What they need is to proactively adjust themselves, identify customers and their needs, and innovate from uncertainties.” Liu Xiangwen explained, “In 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out with some of the deadliest force we’ve seen in human history. During the pandemic, the entire economic and industrial chain began to reconfigure at full speed, adding more uncertainties to the market. In an era with high uncertainty, finding certainty becomes the top priority of every entrepreneur.”

Where will new entrepreneurial directions take us?

Liu Xiangwen, Vice President of Alibaba Cloud AI and General Manager of Marketing and the Public Affairs Department

Certainty in Uncertainty

This year, from the perspective of the entire business ecosystem, the pandemic has kickstarted the online economy. New business models are emerging, such as online office, online consumption, and online learning. These are gradually being accepted by everyone, and online businesses are now the “new normal” for consumers and the economy.

“For small, medium, and large enterprises, the process of upgrading to digital intelligence, on-cloud infrastructures, and the entire cloud ecosystem have just begun. This means that blue oceans still exist, and the next direction of entrepreneurship is here.” Liu Xiangwen said, “The real economy is slowing down, and needs to be driven and transformed by digitalization.”

In recent years, China’s real economy has experienced a slowdown in growth and a decline in efficiency. They are caused by the combined impact of multiple factors, such as the global economic slowdown and rising production costs.

From 2017 to 2019, China’s GDP growth rate was 6.95%, 6.75%, and 6.11%, respectively. The rate has been declining, while the digital economy has shown rapid development.

“The Report of Digital China Index 2019” pointed out that the volume of China’s digital economy in 2018 was 29.91 trillion yuan. The volume increased by 12.02% from the previous year, accounting for a 33.22% GDP rise from 32.28%. In addition, a research report from McKinsey Global Institute stated, “As China moves into the new digital era, the Internet economy will provide a growth rate of 0.3% to 1.0% of China’s annual economic growth from 2013 to 2025.”

China’s digital development has entered a new stage of driving force transformation. The digital industry has become the main engine for digital development.

Nowadays, digital intelligence has become an important way to promote progress in science, technologies, and society. This is because digital intelligence can act as the infrastructure of the social economy. It is the core element of scientific and technological evolution and a new opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Digital intelligence has become the trend of development in the future. What opportunities can innovative entrepreneurs seize during this wave of digital intelligence innovation?

The Next Direction of Entrepreneurship Lies in “Digital Intelligence”

Liu Xiangwen believes that new opportunities can be found in on-cloud digital intelligence ecosystems, including cloud-native, data-native, and cloud industrial internet, from the new ecosystem aspect.

More specifically, new opportunities lie in five fields of digital intelligence, namely, on-cloud infrastructure, digital touchpoints, online business, digital operations, and intelligent decision-making.

There are enormous opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs both in ecology and specific categories. For traditional industries, there is a need for digitalization to implement optimization and improve efficiency. However, in industries such as healthcare, many details and experiences are not digitalized well. For non-traditional industries stepping into the digital era, there are also opportunities for innovation in the processing, storage, and analysis of information data. It is the same for R&D of core technologies, including the carrying capacity of infrastructure, cloud operating systems, and networks.

The Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center: Letting Technology-Based SMEs Make Progress on the Cloud

The “cloud” is the key part of the digital intelligence of infrastructure, but the investment of the cloud is huge. Alibaba Cloud hopes to build a platform that works like a water fountain. All enterprises can have water to drink as long as they connect to the water pipes. In other words, what Alibaba Cloud needs to do is to make it easier for all enterprises to use data and enable more enterprises to enjoy the benefits of technology development.

The Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center is an innovation and entrepreneurship platform for technology-based SMEs based on cloud computing infrastructure.

“Over the past five years, the Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center has been exploring and launching customized service packages for SMEs with technological innovation in different stages. The Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center has provided many services, such as the innovation-enabling platform, innovation bases, innovation summits, entrepreneurship competitions, entrepreneurship training, and star innovative startups. These services have become extremely popular for nearly one million SMEs on the platform.” Liu Xiangwen said, “Enterprises with technological innovation on the platform regard the Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center as the carrier. They have various forms of interaction and cooperation with Alibaba’s ecosystem in terms of technology, business, professionals, and ecology.”

In short, the Innovation Center is also a model of people, goods, markets, and ecosystems. At the growth stage of the Innovation Center, Alibaba Cloud looks for eco-partners. Then, Alibaba Cloud provides support for eco-partners’ development in products, technologies, business opportunities, investment and financing, fiscal and taxation, and personnel. In the model of offline scenarios, Alibaba Cloud has built different innovation support bases in different places and launched entrepreneurship competitions, accelerators, and training courses with different themes. By doing so, Alibaba Cloud hopes to fully assist startups online and offline.

The ecological development of the Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center can be intuitively seen from several numbers.

“Taking star innovative startups as an example, since its launch in August 2018, more than 100 star startups have joined the program. More than 60 business lines of Alibaba Group and 200 capitals communicate and connect with each other in this program. During the program, more business has been developed.” Liu Xiangwen explained, “In two years, Alibaba Cloud has facilitated over 1,000 business cooperations and 64 investments.”

Take the innovation-enabling platform as another example. During the pandemic, 186 live broadcasts of innovation and entrepreneurship and 21 cloud roadshows were held on the platform. 11 categories of services with over 600 innovative resources were provided. Innovative entrepreneurs have enjoyed the convenient online activities that allow them to participate anytime and anywhere. Therefore, online activities will be held regularly.

At the Apsara Conference 2020, the Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center released three new products for innovation and entrepreneurship. For offline scenarios, industry innovation bases will be developed, concerning cloud platform, cloud application innovation, industrial Internet, new retail, and financial technology. For online scenarios, the innovation-enabling platform is becoming a convenient platform with resources for innovation and entrepreneurship. In terms of serving start-ups, the Alibaba Cloud Accelerator will provide innovative and entrepreneurial products and services throughout their life cycles. With these products and services, the Accelerator will help startups integrate closely into Alibaba’s ecosystem, and receive targeted support from investment, financing, and media campaigns.

Liu Xiangwen hopes that innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish on the cloud. The Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center will keep this goal in mind and embrace the “digital intelligence era” together with society.

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