CHINA DAY 2019 (Smart China – Transformation & Innovation)

May 4, 2020

The second edition of the CHINA DAY event organized by Cathay Capital & Cathay innovation took place on July 6th on the campus of the University of Aix-Marseille, as a Partnership Event 19th edition of the Rencontres Economiques d’Aix-en-Provence.

Under the umbrella theme “Smart China – Transformation & Innovation”, we had the pleasure of welcoming 14 speakers from around the world representing different backgrounds and expertise. It was a morning filled with deep ideas and insights on major trends in innovation and technological development on an international scale.

Opening Keynote


    Mingpo Cai: How can we combine innovation and trust today?

    Pesident and Founder, Cathay Capital

    Fear of technology and biased visions of some regions, such as China, still exist today.

   That is why social impact and knowledge sharing are becoming increasingly important.

   That’s exactly what we’re trying to do this year at CHINA DAY and at the Rencontres,

   rebuild trust and share the technological innovations of Smart China.

Venture capital’s new horizons

Jacques Bernier, co-founder & Managing Partner of Teralys Capital

Aziz Mebarek, co-founder & Managing Partner of Integra Partners & AfricInvest Group

Denis Barrier, co-founder & CEO of Cathay Innovation

In just a few years, China has become the most digitalized population in the world. We believe that the same type of evolution can occur in regions like South East Asia. Growth through innovation is becoming a global phenomenon. It confirms the soundness and the usefulness of a large global investment platform in technology. ” Denis Barrier mentioned first.

Truly, China is growing at an incredibly rapid pace in technology and digitalization. The Chinese digital story highlighted the fact that investors should not dismiss the tech potential of specific sectors or other geographies. The panel discussion focused a lot on Africa as well since Africa is often perceived negatively because of corruption, pandemics or malnutrition but is one of the most promising in terms of development potential. Technology is the answer to many of Africa’s structural problems. 11 of the 20 fastest growing economies are already from the continent and the African population will double in size over the next 20 to 30 years.

“Even if Africa is often perceived negatively, the African continent will continue to urbanize and develop. The continent’s potential can only be fulfilled through technology!” Aziz Mebarek said.

New horizons of venture capital have also been opened up in Canada. The culture is now changing inside the country. Investment is no longer a topic that they frown on.

“More and more talents – especially from the United States – are coming to Canada. We are opening more doors, more markets for international investors.” Jacques Bernier added.

Art & Entrepreneurship – Sharing points of view

CAI Guo-qiang, contemporary artist

Mingpo CAI, Founder and President of Cathay Capital

Intense exchanges took place between the international private equity and venture capital entrepreneur, Mingpo CAI, and the world-famous contemporary artist, CAI Guo-Qiang. Originally from the same village in southern China, they share the same vision: “With common roots all over the world, one creates links and adapts to different cultures. We aim to be locals in every country.”

“I have been to Aix-en-Provence lots of times, and this beautiful town always remains the dream place in my heart. I am here to pursue Cézanne’s vocation, and Aix has always helped me connect to this great artist.” Said CAI Guo-qiang.

“Does the technological development of today frighten you? Do you see the gap between business, technology and art?” Ming-po CAI then asked.

“I personally am not afraid of technology at all. It’s human beings that make me worry, since it can be hard to build trust beyond cultures and knowledge. It’s an art in itself to find a perfect balance between artistic creation, human trust and technological advancement. However, people are always behind technology innovation.  So as for me, the sentimental connection goes far beyond the scientific research.” concluded Mr. CAI Guo-qiang.

Connecting the next billion people

Sébastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS

Nicolas Zibell, CCO of OneWeb

Denis Barrier, co-founder & CEO of Cathay Innovation

A broad range of the population has only limited access to certain resources. And when we think of resources today, we are not limited to natural ones, but technological resources as well. Against all expectations, the share of the world’s population connected to the internet is no longer on the rise. “When we talk about technology and its evolution, I noticed that we often forget that 3 billion people on the planet still do not have access to the internet today. But these are the people on which technology can have the most positive impact in the coming years, This is a valuable growth reservoir for established companies.” Denis declared.

There are many challenges to meeting the objective of connecting the next billion people: many areas are still not covered by the infrastructures required, terminals and servers are too far away, or the cost of data is excessive. Companies like KaiOS Technologies, who provides the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones, or OneWeb, who plans to launch 600 satellites to improve coverage, are offering new solutions to empower people around the world through technology, according to Nicolas Zibell, CCO of OneWeb.

There are 500 million feature phones sold in a year. Giving feature phones access to the internet opens up the biggest new market in the telephony business for coming years.” Sébastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technology. 

Investing in the new talents of financial innovation

Isabelle BAJEUX-BESNAINOU, Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University

Sylvie Ouziel, CEO of Allianz Global Assistance

Nicolas Du Cray, Partner at Cathay Innovation

Investing in tech requires to find the right talents but how are they trained and how to identify the next generation of local fintech leaders in a changing global environment? Those were the key questions discussed during this panel gathering the prominent Montreal-based academic Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou and the leading insurance professional Sylvie Ouziel, who spends half of her life in China. As highlighted by Cathay Innovation’s Partner Nicolas Du Cray, China is now one of the leading financial players and probably the most advanced in terms of digital solutions. Fintechs are now offering new horizons and making great progress, for instance in terms of financial inclusion, a topic on which Cathay Innovation is very attentive. Sylvie Ouziel also pointed out that China has become so connected because of the void left by traditional financial actors. Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou concluded on the importance of international exposure and benchmarking, taking the example of a field trip organised in Israël for McGill’s students.

How digital platforms are changing the world

Iñigo JUANTEGUI, co-founder & CEO of OnTruck

Sam ZAID, founder & CEO of Getaround

Yang XU, COO of Yunquna

Jacky ABITBOL, Partner at Cathay Innovation

Four representatives from digital companies based in China, the United States, Spain and France, and active in different segments of logistics and transports deliberated on the usefulness and future developments of digital platforms.

Can digital platforms solve everything? Of course not. But they are playing an increasingly important role in the transformation of value chains in a wide range of sectors.