Thought it was about time I catch people up with the status of the booming startup scene in Shenzhen, China. I am constantly getting emails asking where a good coworking space is in Shenzhen, or what hardware incubators there are – so it has inspired me to convert some of those longer email answers into a proper blog post.
I plan to make this a living document, please leave a blog comment below or reach out to me and let’s make this a complete document! I hope that I am including everyone on this first attempt, but the market has been growing and changing so fast, please do not be offended those who may be in other organizations that I did not include – let me know and I’ll add you!
Startup Industry Is Booming in China!
Seriously, there are startups getting funding based on powerpoint, at massive valuations. I’m hearing about the crazy high salary offers being made to programmers around China. A good friend who is an amazing technical dude and CTO of many companies, is now deciding between six tech startups who are begging him to join them.
There is definitely a lot of money and support systems in place here in Shenzhen and the rest of China – seems the main thing lacking is entrepreneurs and technical talent to fulfill this growing demand on the investment side.
Makes Me Think Back To The Early Days in 2010 / 2011
I have been in China since end of 2007, and would consider myself an entrepreneur, opening a small office for my e-commerce business to source products. I wanted to be around more entrepreneurs, but it was so fragmented and spread out. I was part of the first coworking space Szteam in Shenzhen, and it was just too early. Now would be a perfect time, there are so many popping up all around this city. But I do worry there are too many coworking spaces.
This Boom Is Also Fueled By Government Support
The Chinese government is really pushing for innovation in its ecosystem. They have been working hard for a couple years now to incentivize business people to setup programs and infrastructure for entrepreneurs – and now it is really kicking in! While anywhere in the world, if a local government pushes for something things happen, but in China – this is really how things move quickly. When the government wants something, it seems to always happen. The citizens know this, and jump on board full steam ahead.
Think this is a reason for this massive growth of the startup scene across China. Again, hope more entrepreneurs can come out of their cubicles to take advantage of this – it is mainly geared towards benefitting the local Chinese entrepreneurs rather than laowai like me 🙂
Address: 3/f, Citicorp Centre, 18 Whitfield Road, Tin Hau, Hong Kong. Cocoon is a pretty much well-known incubator in Hongkong. Reading from the reviews online, it seems like a pretty cool place to incubate business ideas. They offer many entrepreneurship events and wide range of programs such as “innovation for lunch” – where you meet fellow entrepreneurs, investors, and media partners, “smart talk” – a monthly event devoting to spreading ideas, and “pitch night” – offers you exposure for your business ideas in front of a panel of judges.
Cyberport Incubation Programme
Address: 100 Cyberport Rd, Telegraph Bay, Hong Kong
Cyberport is an innovative digital community that is owned by Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited. They have this Cybertport Smart-space where local start-ups and overseas companies can enjoy a state-of-the-art connectivity and facilities. Also, just like Cocoon, they have various on-premise events like seminars, meet-ups, pitching sessions, product trials and business collaboration.
Hongkong Design Incubation
Address: 6/F-7/F, CITA Kowloon Bay Training Centre 63 Tai Yip Street, Kowloon
Design Incubation Programme is a publicly funded and non-profit organization established in 2001. As what its name says, it primarily supports designers/creatives who have ambitions to start up a business in the design sectors. Their incubatees enjoy free rental for the 1st year and then discount rental on the 2nd year, financial assistance in operation, marketing & development, programmes such as business knowledge enrichment, mentorship and outreaching programs.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation’s Incubation Programmes
Address: 8/F, Bio-Informatics Centre, 2 Science Park West Avenue, Hong Kong Science Park, Shatin,
New Territories, Hong Kong
HKSTP offers three incubation programmes called: Incu-App, Incu-Tech and Incu-Bio. Incu-ap incubation program apparently supports web or mobile related startups. Incu-tech is a 3-year programme that supports aspiring tech start-ups in the field of Electronics, green technology, ICT and Material and Precision Engineering. Lastly, Incu-Bio supports start-ups in the field of Therapeutics/personal care, Chinese/Herbal medicine, regenerative medicines, medical devices and diagnostics.
HKSTP Incubatees enjoy free or subsidized co-working space / office premises, financial aid to each successful applicant, facilities, technical and management assistance, promotion and development assistance, and business support.
Address: BLINK, 2/F, 111 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Betatron is Hongkong’s first non-vertical accelerator programme that provides funding for start-ups. It is a 4 month programme, where a start-up can enjoy dedicated workspace, mentorship by successful entrepreneurs, regular hands-on coaching, and a funding worth $30,000.
FinTech Innovation Lab by Accenture
Fintech Innovation Lab by Accenture was originally established in New York City and has already been launched to other countries such as London, Dublin and Hongkong. They offer 12-week program, where selected companies enjoy workspace, mentorship from leading firms, and weekly workshops. Fintech Innovation Lab is mainly interested in start-ups that are related to financial technology, social media and collaboration, and operational technologies. There is no fee for applying or joining the program, however, all expenses must be self-funded.
Ablaze is a 6-month program that looks for start-ups that are industry-relevant (travel, eat and dine, teens, fashion/lifestyle, beauty or women segment and parenting) and discipline-relevant (digital advertising and media, content marketing, consumer products/services, e-commerce and audience analysis. Startups can benefit co-working space, use of facilities, mentorship from industry experts, and funding.
Address: Overseas Trust Bank Building, Basement,, 160 Gloucester Rd, Hong Kong
DBS Accelerator is powered by Nest and supports tech-savvy companies that are covering artificial intelligence, banking infrastructure, cyber security, cryptocurrency and customer engagement. Participants enjoy state-of-the-art co-working space in Wan Chai, mentorship from experts and specialists, funding, tailored lectures, access to DBS and Nest innovation network.
Just like DBS Accelerator, AIA is also powered by Nest and was launched in 2014. This is an 8-week program that looks for start-ups that cover solutions tackling artificial-intelligence, data analytics, food tech, wellness programme, and banking infrastructures. Participants benefits include market exposure, mentorship, networking opportunities and funding.
BUSINESS INCUBATORS IN MAINLAND CHINA
Address: 6 Floor, Tower A, COFCO Plaza, 8 Jianguomennei Ave., Beijing, 100005
IDG capital claims to be the most experienced long-term partner for Chinese businesses. IDG mainly focuses on Chinese technology investments in the industry of Internet, mobile & Tech, moderns services & brand, healthcare, industrial tech and resources, and media, tourism & real estate.
Address: 11F, Huahong Building, No.463 Tanggu Rd, Shanghai China
Innospring was founded in 2013 and was developed for both US and Chinese technology enterprises entering into each other’s market. Innospring provide participants with assistance in law, finance, resources, mentorship, and professional consulting.
Address: Haidian District, Zhongguancun, Haidian Qiao, Dong Nan Haidian Tu Shu Cheng Bu Xing Jie
Garage cafe was established in 2011. At the price of one cup of joe, you can join an open working space for start-ups/ entrepreneurs, free internet, and services like photocopying, printing and scanning. The place can hold up to 100+ people, so it’s a perfect place to interact or connect with people to build business relationships.
Microsoft Accelerator Beijing
Address: Danleng Street, Haidian District, Microsoft Asia-Pacific R & D Group headquarters on the 5th Building, 2nd floor, Building 2 Beijing, CHN
Microsoft Accelerator Beijing was founded in 2012 and mainly collaborates with outstanding entrepreneurs in different industries. One of the advantages in joining the program is to be able to keep up with China’s specific industry situations and regulations/policies. Extensive mentorship, support, guidance and exposure opportunities are given to members.
Address: 28 Yuyuan Dong Lu, Building #3, ground floor entrance Shanghai, Shanghai China
Chinaccelerator was founded in 2010 and its the first start-up accelerator established in China. Its main purpose is to help Internet start-ups to succeed globally. It offers a 3 month program for entrepreneurs who specializes in e-commerce, softwares, mobile and any internet-related products. After 3 months, start-ups can stay at their office rent-free to continue fund-raising and support. Moreover, China Accelerator provides free co-working space up to 6months.
Address: Suite 2301, 23rd Floor, Citic Plaza Shenhong 1350 North Sichuan Road, Hongkou District, Shanghai 200080 People’s Republic of China
Shanghai Valley offers a 2 week session for entrepreneurs or companies with strong desires to grow globally. At the end of the 2 week program, participants will have the chance to pitch their ideas to investors and government officials. Moreover, certain participants may also be offered opportunity to join a customized incubation program with Shanghai valley for approximately 6 months.
SOSV is mainly specializes with start-ups in different fields such as hardware, software, biology, food, robotics, medical devices, transportation, green energy and a lot more. Participants of SOSV programs benefit with financial capital, product optimization, market knowledge, networking, support and mentorship.
Shenzhen is Known for Hardware
This city is the center of the electronics hardware ecosystem, globally. We’ll go through some of these companies later, but those not familiar, there is the Hua Qiang Bei electronics marketplace in the central Futian district of Shenzhen. That is really worth at least a half day trip, you can get lost in blocks and blocks of buildings that are jam packed with little vendors selling anything from PCB boards to mobile phones to solo wheels. Any kind of gadget or component you can think of – it is there. It is a 5 block radius big Radio Shack (at least what Radio Shack used to be…).
Many hardware enthusiasts get lost in this market dreaming up all kinds of new product ideas, buying a quantity as low as one piece and can go up to cartons and even get connected to the manufacturer to run thousands of pieces. If you have any interest in hardware, you need to visit Hua Qiang Bei one time in your life at least!
Coworking & Hackerspaces
Coworking and hackerspaces have very similar ideas, except a coworking space isn’t geared towards gear-heads. A coworking space just has desks and working area and some lounging. But a hackerspace will be more like your garage where you try to build a piece of hardware, you will have solders, cutting knives, all kinds of materials and almost what may seen as junk by your mom and chucked – but very useful little gadgets.
Honestly I am not a hardware guy (ironic I know, I live in Shenzhen) and normally hang out in coworking spaces, but let’s list out a few of the current options here.
Shenzhen Hackerspace Options
Here are a few of the hackerspaces I know of, I have a feeling I am missing some so please let me know so I can keep this fresh!
The original hackerspace in Shenzhen, this spawned out of SeeedStudio when they moved to a bigger office back in 2010 / 2011 timeframe. It is currently in OCT (Overseas Chinese Town) and the website can be found at [ChaiHuo.org](http://www.ChaiHuo.org). There are regular events too.
Founded by IBM engineers, Tech Space is just to the West of High Tech Park and across from Shenzhen University. They have a few different rooms, a big space with tons of equipment. You can check them out at [techspace.cn](http://www.techspace.cn)
Shenzhen Coworking Options
Good old coworking, I always wanted to host a space since I remember learning about this term in 2007 when I was still in NYC! I’m happy to see Shenzhen has a few popping up now.
I met Tech Temple at a startup event in Beijing last summer, and the space is amazing! They now have two spaces in Beijing, and in April (in a couple weeks as I write this) they will open their third location, here in Shenzhen! I hear the opening party is on April fifth, you can check out about all the Tech Temple locations at [Techtemple.cn](http://www.techtemple.cn)
Shenzhen Startup Cafe Options
A bit of a potential overlap with coworking, but the main difference is that coworking charges membership or seat charges, where a startup cafe is basically the same as a coffee shop. Just come in, by a coffee, and work! No need to pay a membership fee. Sometimes they have coworking and startup cafes in the same venue, so there might be some overlap here as you dig into these places and visit them.
3wcoffee.com is a startup cafe in Shenzhen that started in Beijing. It was one of the first “startup coffee shops” in Shenzhen. Its located in North High Tech Park in Nanshan district. Many of the early Startup Weekend events were held there.
Beta cafe i can’t find a website but address is below:
Beta Cafe | 福田区红荔路4018号花卉世界户外园艺中心A7铺
This one was started by the local government as well as my friend Arrow Dong. He has been a consistent mentor at many startup events since the early days when I was introduced to him in 2010 / 2011. Located in the South of High Tech park, it has more restaurants and establish technology companies around it, as well as in walking distance from two different subway lines.
This is a common question I am asked, where are the incubators in Shenzhen? Well here are the few that I am aware of, but many are popping up all over and if I missed some please let me know!
Innovalley.com.cn is an incubator in Shekou district. It is one I worked in when they first opened, as I was living nearby and looking for office space for Social Agent back in late 2012. It has been now a couple years and they have quite a large space, their own dedicated building two floor tall in the middle of an up and coming IT park in Shekou. Mostly focused on software startups. They also have their main and original location in Guangzhou. They have close relationship with Plug And Play Incubator in Silicon Valley.
Haxlr8r is one I like, as it is the sister accelerator to Chinaccelerator, which I graduated from in batch 3, the year 2012. The site is www.haxlr8r.com and the first year was in www.seeedstudio.com space, and both in hardware area and I know them well. Haxlr8r has had quite a few batches of hardware startups now, and has a new office right in the center of Hua Qiang Bei. They have their demo day in Silicon Valley and seem to have really figured out the right mix of China and Silicon Valley for their business model.
Highway1 (Mostly in USA)
Another high profile hardware accelerator is highway1.io, part of PCH model. Most of their facility and operations for the accelerator is in Silicon Valley, but they have a big presence in China from their product sourcing and factory partners. Most of the entrepreneurs spend most of their time in USA, and work with PCH’s factories in China to mass produce the products once they are ready to launch. I am not familiar exactly the model, but there is some requirements to use the factories PCH has relationships with as part of the program.
Brinc (Hong Kong)
While technically not Shenzhen, it is right across the border in Hong Kong we have Brinc. A very new accelerator that started late last year / early 2015 is http://brinc.io based in downtown Hong Kong. Right inside the new chic PMQ 9999 they have multiple units on the fifth floor. The units are used for various purposes, office space, training, presentations, and will soon display the entrepreneur’s product in the format of a shop that can be found in many of the other units in the PMQ area.
The glue for a startup community is the events. It is normally the early stages of a community, when there are get togethers and mixers, and this is also how the Shenzhen startup community developed. The event names and organizers have come and gone over the years, as a natural progression and development of the community develops. I used to organize a lot of local startup events, but retired a few years ago now that I am older and a father. But don’t worry, there are plenty of events to choose from so let’s go through some.
English or Chinese Events?
For the most part, Shenzhen events are in Chinese. The majority of the tech community is, you guessed it, Chinese. I know it is frustrating for foreigners like me, even though I have been studying Chinese daily this year, I still am a far way off from getting to comprehend and get value from a full Chinese tech presentation.
Let me take time to go through a few events.
This is a global network of meetups for entrepreneurs and has spread like wildfire. The Shenzhen chapter is pretty active and has monthly meetups in the format of a speaker and networking afterwards. Normally this takes place on a Saturday afternoon, and the venue changes month to month. Best way to stay up to date on this one is their meetup group
This event I was heavily involved with for many years, but is currently not active in Shenzhen as far as I am aware. You can find it on shenzhen.startupweekend.org for updates.
This is a local Chinese startup weekend that was picked up by a lot of the organizing team from previous startup weekends and startup grind events. These guys are really passionate and I am happy they have continued to motivate and move the local startup community forward. Mainly these are Chinese language events and a 52 hour event from Friday night until Sunday night, building out teams and pitching to investors.
One of the differences is that they have money to give the teams to fly to San Francisco to meet investors and other startups. First prize team leader gets this chance, pretty cool motivation to work hard that whole weekend.
You can find these guys on Wechat (weixin), search for Startup Salad official account.
A really freestyle event that is also a franchise found around the world. This one has just one theme – drinks and networking. Normally monthly, and obviously found at a bar on a weeknight, entrepreneurs or startup enthusiasts can come together to drink and meet each other. Alcohol always gets the barriers down, and talking up – in any culture – and here in Shenzhen there is a lot of friendly people at these events ready to talk business.
Startup Digest For Event Updates
Startup Digest is associated now with Startup Weekend, and is a grassroots volunteer based weekly newsletter of events happening in various cities. There is one in Shenzhen, Startupdigest.com/shenzhen and you can subscribe to the weekly newsletter.
Startup Community in Shenzhen is Alive And Thriving!
I’m happy to have been involved with the early stages of the startup community in Shenzhen, China. It has definitely been growing and thriving the last few years with a lot of local and foreign leaders organizing events. Investor availability and transparency has also come out much stronger over the years with more angels actively seeking out entrepreneurs in local events.
I’m glad China has embraced innovation and entrepreneurship.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear comments, various perspectives, and other events, co-working spaces, and incubators I may have missed in your comment below.