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Innovation is everywhere - Shenzhen (China) startup ecosystem (2014)

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How come a fishing village can turn in 30 years into one of China's most innovative and productive city? Who are the people making Shenzhen something more than just a huge factory? What startups …

How come a fishing village can turn in 30 years into one of China's most innovative and productive city? Who are the people making Shenzhen something more than just a huge factory? What startups emerge from a city which mixes a lot of immigrants, an entrepreneurial mindset, and a fondness for shanzhai, China's creative piracy and geekery?

We've been attending the Shenzhen Maker Faire in April 2014, and were amazed by both the biggest exhibition of tinkerers and hardware geeks, and the quality of speakers in the conference.

We've also spend a day with the teams from HAXLR8R, a proeminent hardware startup accelerator based both in Shenzhen and San Francisco.

Follow our journey and discover how the startup scene of Shenzhen has been progressively built, what makes it different from Shanghai or Beijing, meet its key people and events, and do remember the name of this city as it's evolving into an epicenter of tech innovation, both for hardware startup and life sciences with BGI.

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  • 1. Shenzhen (China) innovation ecosystem Following HAXLR8R Generator 1.2 conference & the Maker Faire Shenzhen April 2014
  • 2. Innovation has no place in a global world, it’s everywhere Innovation ecosystems can learn from one another Local context matters and should be a source for innovators This is why… We’re on a world tour of innovation ecosystems! We believe…
  • 3. History & context of innovation in Shenzhen The migrant city turns into the capital of makers
  • 4. A brief history of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • 1980s: a fishing village with 300k population • 2000s: the world factory-city with 15m population, all migrants, entrepreneurs • 2020: the key component of the Pearl Delta River Megalopolis (50m+ population)
  • 5. A brief history of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • Before: low-quality, low wages, producing by the millions • Now: high-quality, scalability, fast-execution • A new label: Innovate with China
  • 6. A brief history of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • Shenzhen already reputed to be a tech capital in China, with Tencent HQ (WeChat: 600m+ subscribers, QQ) • Turning into the world capital for makers with a virtuous ecosystem of factories, makers, and entrepreneurs from all China & the world
  • 7. 2020: the Pearl River Delta Megalopolis Asia 27% • Hong Kong already rebuilding Kowloon & “New Territories” • 2020: Pearl River Delta Megalopolis with 50M+ population • Shenzhen redefining itself as a city for engineers and makers
  • 8. Home of shanzhai, China’s creative pirates • Shanzhai is a creative way to hack existing product for specific needs • Shenzhen has them all, weird items made on a small-scale addressing a specific need • The connection with the Maker culture is pretty obvious
  • 9. The biggest playground for hardware geeks • Huaqiang area is the Mecca for all types of components and assistance to make things • Seeed Maker Map will help you find your way! • Do bring a Chinese speaking friend or beef up your drawing skills
  • 10. Chinese shanzhai & US makers meet in SZ • The Chinese shanzhai is the friendly counterpart of the US maker • HAXLR8R is the top hardware accelerator, with offices in Shenzhen and San Francisco • Lots of US-based institutions interested in the Chinese maker culture (Institute for the Future, NYU Shanghai, Hacked Matter think-tank…) Left: Mitch Altman, the father of the hackerspaces. Right: Eric Pan, the interface between hardware startups and Chinese factories/suppliers
  • 11. Hardware startups from Shenzhen Roadie, a smart guitar tuner • Not yet billion dollar companies, but all products took crowdfunding both to raise money and create a 1st community of early-adopters Palette, the block-based custom creative keyboard WearVigo, the drowsiness meter PetCube, the game & video cube for your pet Notch, the motion tracker Fabule, expressive device for creative homes
  • 12. Shenzhen innovation ecosystem today Pros & Cons, Top Connectors & local best practices
  • 13. Pros and cons of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • A paradise for hardware people, with all the possible components at hand, for one purchase or on wholesale • Higher quality and speed of execution than before. Cheap “made in China” is not in Shenzhen! • Human-size community of people within local accelerators, interface with factories • Maker Faire Shenzhen gains traction and become both a giant showroom and a conference with good networking opportunities • Home of Tencent, a Chinese giant tech software & social media company, good synergies can be found with engineers • Speak Chinese or ask for help (typically with companies like Seeed Studio) • Not a market for consumption as such: you will need to market elsewhere (broader China, US, Europe) • Visa policy is not yet adapted to hardware startups • Big Chinese city which can be polluted, not the best conditions of living, especially with family (though still better than Shanghai or Beijing) • Hardware is by no means the same thing than software: a startup takes more cash, more time PROS CONS
  • 14. Top connectors in Shenzhen Eric Pan (Forbes), founder of SeeedStudio, a company which curates Shenzhen maker jungle to make it easy to use for entrepreneurs, organizer of the Maker Faire David Li (Twitter), founder of China’s first hackerspace (Xinjechian), very present in Shenzhen ecosystem and linked to think and do tanks like Hacked Matter Cyril Ebersweiler (Twitter), founder and partner of HAXLR8R, the hardware-focused accelerator with offices in Shenzhen and San Francisco Benjamin Joffe (Twitter), partner at HAXLR8R, has lived and worked across Asia for more than a decade in tech related industries
  • 15. Top connectors in Shenzhen Lyn Jeffrey (bio), cultural anthropologist and research director for the Institute for the Future, one of the brain behind MakerCities Anna Greenspan (bio), philosopher based in Shanghai and founder of Hacked Matter, a research hub which explores China tech ecosystem César Harada (website), living in Hong-Kong where he builds DIY shapeshifting boats, goes to Shenzhen to buy his components so he knows the way Scott Edmunds (bio), Editor at Giga Science and working with BGI, one of the largest open-biology / genomics laboratory in the world, with a branch in Shenzhen
  • 16. Best practices of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • The Maker Map made by Seeed Studio, helping you find your way in the jungle of factories and component resellers. Do pay them a visit as they are the main interface for Makers not knowing the city
  • 17. Best practices of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • The Maker Faire Shenzhen, now an established event gathering both a crowd of amateurs and family with the expo, and the top thinkers and speakers in the conference, such as Chris Anderson
  • 18. Best practices of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • HAXLR8R, an incubator specialized on hardware startups • A two-country program: China in Shenzhen, the US in San Francisco • A team of international mentors and great knowledge of the local scene.
  • 19. Best practices of Shenzhen innovation ecosystem • Creation of a new label for the city and the country: “Innovative with China”, rather than “Made in China”, to reflect the new capabilities of Shenzhen • The label is a new brand, already used on all Seeed Studio products
  • 20. What’s next for Shenzhen? Turn makers into B2C businessmen, so far, Shenzhen is better known for B2B factories and manufacturers. Hardware sells well though in lesser quantities, specific business skills might be needed Improve even more the interface Shenzhen is playing for makers and startupers from all over the world. The local ecosystem of factories, funders, events, can be more visible and attractive for non-Chinese Get Shenzhen ecosystem ambassadors around the world, where they can be an entry point. Makers are everywhere, but they don’t always realize the potential to “innovate with China”
  • 21. Eager to learn about the other innovation ecosystems?
  • 22. Documenting innovation through key events Hot posts, interviews, live-tweet, Google Hangouts Identifying key connectors on & offline Discovering alternative and emerging innovation ecosystems Beyond the Silicon Valley, local innovation hotbeds Tech, Social impact, Education, Life Sciences… Increasing mobility of innovators and ecosystem enablers Connecting doers and thinkers through monthly Hangouts Offering innovation ecosystem enablers to learn and exchange from peers About our project A world tour of innovation ecosystems
  • 23. Martin Pasquier Entrepreneur in Singapore (social media agency), long- time traveller Mixes economics, politics and travels to analyze ecosystems, reports on innovation About our team Analysis, community & network Anne Lalou CEO of Innovation Factory & Web School Factory in Paris Transfer knowledge of ecosystems to new generation and to a network of top French companies Nicolas Loubet Serial entrepreneur in Paris with 3 companies, growth hacker Manages and nurtures creative communities on & offline
  • 24. A world tour of innovation: 2013-2014 SUPPORT US! Travel & time of exploration isn’t free   Custom reports on emerging markets & trends  Workshops, talks on innovation trends  Connection to key local players for VCs, brands, tech communities
  • 25. • A portrait of Eric Pan, founder of Seeed Studio, in Forbes • The link to the precious Maker Map of Shenzhen • An article of The Economist on tech hubs, and how Shenzhen fares • The Guardian wrap-up with an angle on the politics of the Maker movement More on Shenzhen startup & innovation scenes Resources
  • 26. Thanks! Martin Pasquier, for Innovation is Everywhere martin@innovationiseverywhere.com