Building, making and innovating in Shenzhen

Along our path of discovery in China (Eisenhower Fellowship), a group of friends visited a special economic zone which has become a global magnet for technological hardware manufacturing industries in China … Shenzhen. This southern city of China is home to hundreds of startup companies that specialize in prototyping hardware and electronic components.

The availability of a local testing market is one major factor, which makes the region a significant place for hardware manufacturing companies to establish their businesses.

In his book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, Greg Lindsay remarked about Shenzhen, “It is a place where accelerators are eager to help you build, tests, refine and make a million of something all on the same day.”

Our corporate visit to Tencent covered a wide array of topics and a sneak peak at plans for their new HQ. HAX and Tianan Cyber Park offered us hands on introductions and chats with member entrepreneurs and their investors. Side trips included an awards festival for filmmakers, karaoke and shopping in tech production storefronts.

The city was a small fishing town with slightly over 20,000 people approximately 3 decades ago but today Shenzhen is a fast-prototyping hub for startup accelerators & incubators, hardware resellers and reputed hardware curators.

The city has a population of over 11 million residents enabling companies to find cheap labor for businesses.

The city is home to some of the many well-known firms such as Tencent, ZTE, Skyworth, TP-Link, Huawei, and Oneplus among hundreds of other tech companies that specialize in the production of hardware components including 3D printers, mobile phone, robotics, microcontroller devices, internet appliances and other electronic and consumer appliances.

Notable Startups in Shenzhen

DJI. This is the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian drones. The company was founded in 2006 and manufactures a variety of civilian drones such as aerial drones, flight controllers, civilian helicopters, multi-rotor aerial flight platforms, and drone accessories such as camera gimbals among other drone hardware.

Seed Studio. This is one of the first hackerspaces in the city. It is a community where computing experts meet to share ideas and discussions on innovative tech projects and techniques. Founded in 2006, the tech company has grown so huge in computing and has a variety of innovative tech products such as mobile devices, consoles, and PC games just to mention a few. In addition, there is another sprinter group, Chaihuo, which spawned from Seeed Studio when the number of experts became too large in 2011 . Chaihuo formed their own startup hackerspace in the same city.

Haxlr8r. Another awesome tech accelerator that has helped many people in brainstorming ideas for startups in the hardware industry is Haxlr8r. Many computing experts have graduated from this company, which too specializes in helping people incubate their own computing ideas. They too have a range of innovative tech products such as 3D printers and. microcontrollers, though they mainly specialize in mentoring and training people.

Other major accelerators include Tech Space, which was started by IBM engineers, Tech Space, Innovalley and Highway1 among others.

Latest News from Shenzhen

Apple Inc is set to launch an R&D center in China’s manufacturing town of Shenzhen. This move follows a similar plan to launch another R&D center in Beijing by Apple as it seeks to bounce back against Chinese local tech companies such as Huawei technologies, Vivo and OPPO who have been striving to take the market share of from its flagship iPhone.

“We are excited to be opening a new Research and Development center here next year so our engineering team can work even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners,” Cupertino-based Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said in emailed comments.

“The Shenzhen center, along with the Beijing center, is also aimed at strengthening relationships with local partners and universities as we work to support talent development across the country,” he said.

In another round of economic events in Shenzhen city, World Trade Organization in association with Shenzhen Municipal Council and Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of MOFCOM as well as other strategic partners and institutional sponsors held the 2016 Global Value Chain Innovation Development Summit in Shenzhen.

The event held in October was meant to reinforce the dialogue between the business community, researchers and policy makers on the development of global value chains, with a specific objective to identify policies, at both national and international level, that will promote growth through globalized production, trade, investment, and innovation.

Headed to Hangzhou …

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Jack Bienko

2016 Eisenhower Fellow