Silicon Delta of hardware – Shenzhen

Speaking of copycats in the previous two posts, I had a chance during my recent China trip to visit Shenzhen over a weekend to see the hardware and electronics capital of the world. I am also very grateful for Mike Reed at HAX who I have not met before this trip but kindly offered to show me around this world famous hardware accelerator. Thanks to technological innovation, whereas in the old days introductions were made via the quantity of Baijiu consumed, today I am able to meet these fabulous people at the swipe of a finger on WeChat (a remarkable messaging and payments app with more than 800m users).

HAX is a VC backed hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei, the world’s largest electronics-supplies market. HAX’s cohort comes from all over the world: North America, Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Southeast China, etc. In Shenzhen, you can find every possible piece of hardware. A lot of startups come to Shenzhen for a fast turnaround to develop their prototype. After the HAX program, most startups will take their prototypes and go back to their home country to raise funds or crowdfund to start mass production.

The biggest challenge is “definitely still the language barrier” says Mike Reed

According to Mike and a few other past and current cohort participants, Shenzhen’s ecosystem is still being developed and most people are friendly and happy to help with any issues and sourcing queries. Shenzhen’s hardware startups argue that the Shenzhen copycats have morphed into an ecosystem of collaborative, fast-learning suppliers and factories. I feel that if you have a strong engineering background, you can come to Shenzhen with an idea and get it prototyped, tested, made and put on the market at a decent price.

While Western countries are obsessed with the first-world problems (process improvement tools, SaaS, etc.), China is working on solutions for the masses from health care to pollution to banking. The insider’s tips were: drones, VR, robotics to be the next big thing in the hardware world.

Personally, I find Shenzhen a tough city to become part of the local community, mainly due to its population is largely transitional. I have found myself several times stranded in the middle of the city with no one who cares to help. Compared to my Caucasian friends who have more luck finding help than I do, I guess I am just another Chinese who the Shenzheners have become accustomed to ignoring.

What does the rise of Shenzhen mean for Hong Kong, which has been the catalyst for investment and growth in the delta for decades? Read my last post here.