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Trudy Dai: Alibaba’s jane of all trades

China · Jun 05, 2019· By Li Yuan

Copyright: CompassList

Dai has played a pivotal role in the success of the world’s biggest e-commerce platform; now the tech giant is trusting her to run its VC arm

Trudy Dai (Dai Shan) is no stranger to incubating startups. In 2010, as head of human resources at Alibaba’s B2C unit Taobao, she introduced the concept of "horse racing," an intrapreneurship program that invited employees to come up with innovative projects. Alibaba provided office space, funding and manpower to the winning teams to help them turn their ideas into reality.

Over the next three years, Taobao employees proposed 350 projects, 10 of which were approved by the company and bore fruit. The iOS version of the Taobao app, direct industry web guide and e-commerce platform all came out of Dai’s horse racing program.

In March 2019, Alibaba chose Dai, 43, to succeed Daniel Zhang as chairperson of Hangzhou Alibaba Venture Capital Management Corporation (Alibaba VC). The tech giant has entrusted the veteran executive with many challenging jobs, so her latest appointment came as no surprise.

One of the most active VC investors in China, Alibaba accounts for nearly 20% of China’s domestic VC investment. In the first 11 months of 2018, it invested a total of RMB 180 million in around 160 startups, including unicorns AI chipmaker Cambricon Technologies, EV manufacturer Xpeng Motors and social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu.

Founded in 2018, Alibaba VC holds a 100% stake in the food delivery platform, which is valued at US$9.5 billion. Its portfolio also includes companies from the sectors of new retail, logistics and new media. 

Faith in tech

Edited by Wendy Lovinger and Wang Xiao'e

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