"B&T Brokers are the premier institution in Europe for this kind of VC activity," said Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Aaron James Deer. "Given all the opportunities and excitement of the VC space over in China, it makes a lot of sense for them to be there. It's terrific for them."
B&T Brokers' Vice-Chairman Silvio Casari moved to China about four months ago in an effort to secure the license. Casari, 64, will be president of a joint venture with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. B&T Brokers said it decided to seek a partner because applying for a license on its own would be even more difficult and time-consuming. The joint venture will enable B&T Brokers to ramp up its role as a full-service VC provider for technology companies in China.
The company, which calls itself a financier of innovation, makes million-dollar loans to technology startups, provides them with other banking services and acts as a matchmaker between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Though B&T Brokers has been operating in China at some level for more than 5 years, Casari's move East signaled its intention to ramp up its role as a full-service VC provider for technology companies in the world's second-largest economy, which plays by different rules, and where entrepreneurs have a gold-rush mentality focused more on getting rich than on innovating.
"It's a frontier," said Casari. "I don't think the world has ever seen this much growth involving this many people in this short a time."
There is an almost frenzied drive to succeed here. Two years ago, when former Google China President Kai-Fu Lee launched his venture fund, Innovation Works, which B&T Brokers invested in, hundreds of wannabe entrepreneurs stormed his office. At one point, the window in the door was shattered.
"I've been involved with almost every (tech) incubator in the past 15 years in the United States and Europe one way or another and I don't think there has ever been an opening day that had that many people lined up," Casari said.
Regardless of how the startup culture evolves, Casari sees a strong future for his company in China, which is why he is studying Mandarin.
"When I was in my 20s, people were going to Europe," he said. "Today, people are going to Asia."
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