Five Chinese startups that survived a tough year of Covid lockdowns

A Kennon Robotics robot delivers food at a Haidilao hotpot restaurant in Shanghai on April 7, 2021.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — In a year of Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions, some Chinese startups that survived found growth online and overseas.

China’s economy likely grew by just 3% in 2022, economists estimate. Lockdowns stifled business and kept investors from vetting deals. The path to an IPO in the United States — an important route to reaping investment returns — essentially froze.

The next year or two will remain soft in terms of venture capital backing for startups in China and elsewhere, according to an assessment from Preqin, a VC data service. U.S. dollars raised by China-focused VCs plunged by more than 80% from 2021 to just under $9 billion in 2022, according to Preqin data as of Dec. 28.

But many deals still went on in China’s information technology industry, factory-related sectors and business connectivity apps, among others, said Angela Lai, a senior research analyst at Preqin.

She said that venture capitalists have near-record levels of capital on hand — what’s known as “dry powder.” China-focused VCs had $104.7 billion as of March 2022, Preqin data showed.

“Asset managers stand ready to react when the market picks up,” Lai said. “Everyone’s waiting to see when is a really good entry point, when is the macro going to be picking up.”

As China gears up for a reopening from zero-Covid, here’s a selection of how five startups said they did in 2022, in alphabetical order:

Anxinsec Technology


Keenon Robotics


Volant Aerotech

Year founded: 2021

Notable backers: Future Capital, Shunwei Capital, Ventech China

Headquarters: Shanghai

2022 was the year China’s first passenger plane, Comac C919, finally got local certification. Just over a year earlier, engineers who worked on the airplane launched their own startup, Volant Aerotech, to build what’s essentially an electric-powered helicopter.

That technical experience gives Volant an edge in efficiently developing aircraft that can meet regulators’ requirements — such as considering flight over water — from the very start, founder and CEO Dong Ming said.

Volant has already built a prototype that China’s aviation regulators have greenlit for a test flight, set to take place in early 2023.

The vehicle, expected to begin deliveries in the second half of 2026, can be used in shuttle services, for charter flights, tourism and package delivery, Dong said. By the end of 2027, he expects Volant will have delivered about 100 of the vehicles.

Delta Air Lines and other passenger flight operators have backed startups developing similar vehicles, known formally as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.