Shenzhen: tech knockoff hub or China’s Silicon Valley?

November 26, 2018 15:47
HAX is an early-stage investor dedicated to accelerating hardware startups. It is based in Shenzhen and San Francisco. Photo: HAX

Recently I took my students at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to an incubation center in Shenzhen to explore the developments in our neighboring city.

Known as China’s Silicon Valley of hardware, Shenzhen has seen rapid advances in its technology and business sectors.

We visited HAX, the Chinese version of Y Combinator (YC), a well-known incubator in Silicon Valley, from which well-known startups such as Airbnb, Dropbox and Twitch have benefited.

HAX is an early-stage investor dedicated to accelerating hardware startups. The program operates across two locations, Shenzhen and San Francisco.

Applicants must have their own hardware design and a prototype. If the application succeeds, HAX would invest US$200,000, and provide assistance in procurement, engineering design and manufacturing for six months. That would help startups quickly achieve mass production.

We met several talented foreigners who have come to Shenzhen to pursue their dreams.

Interestingly, HAX’s base in China is located at Huaqiangbei, a huge bazaar for electronic products, both authentic and knockoffs.

Startups can just go downstairs to the shopping mall whenever they need something like a 3D printer or a spare part for an iPhone.

Indeed, Shenzhen is a place full of contradictions. If you start a business there, someone else might quickly copy your idea. But it is also home to 22 Chinese unicorns, or startups with a valuation of over US$1 billion.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 23

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman