When looking to enter China, there are several cities both large and small to choose from, each with a specific industry focuses and localized benefits for foreign companies. However, some cities within China are better known than others and have direct ties back to Silicon Valley, one of the more notable being, Shenzhen.
Over the past 35 years, Shenzhen has transformed from a farming city with a growing city center to the hardware & manufacturing capital of the world. Not to mention, one of China’s most desirable cities. Quickly Shenzhen has become more by receiving the reputation as a thriving innovation and startup ecosystem.
Recently in Shenzhen’s Hi-Tech district of Nanshan, I sat down with Jan Smejkal, one of the Shenzhen community leaders and China & Asia Pacific Director of Startup Grind. I wanted to get his thoughts on the growing value of Shenzhen and why it’s a necessity for those considering expansion into China. Jan first landed in Shenzhen, China just over three years now and has experienced a lot of what China has to offer – university, running a local business as a foreigner, and supporting the local startup community throughout the country.
Shenzhen as a Soft-Landing Center
When looking at a city to begin learning about doing business in China or setting up, Shenzhen is a natural choice. As Jan mentions, it’s the #1 hardware & manufacturing hub in the world. So, if you’re in hardware, the internet of things (IoT), wearables, etc. Shenzhen is a place you’ll have to live or have a team here.
Aside from its industrial history, Shenzhen is located at the border of Hong Kong – a city which provides effortless arrival and departure without a visa. It’ also the financial hub of China’s Greater Bay Area, and has a thriving startup ecosystem. But, unlike Hong Kong, to arrive in Shenzhen you will need a China Visa. As Jan points out, “If you don’t have a Visa prior, however, you’re able to acquire one upon arrival either in Hong Kong or at the borders giving you up to 5 days.”
With China’s Greater Bay Area growing in importance around innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship, Shenzhen represents its change towards a “new China” showcasing special free trade zones, support for foreign businesses, and access to significant venture capital and government based funding schemes.
Essential Tips For Getting Started in China:
After experiencing so many aspects of what China has to other, I asked Jan to provide his essential quick tips for any founder, executive, or individual looking to get started in China.
- “Do your homework.” Jan goes on to say, “make sure you understand what you’re looking to get out of your trip [to Shenzhen], who you want to meet, and what information you’re looking to get while here.”
- Reach out and research the local community leaders & spaces (SimplyWork, Bee+ Co-Working Space, RocketSpace China, etc.) and events/meetups – like Startup Grind, Startup Salad, Mars Summit, Hardware Massive, and others.
- Find someone within your network who has experiences in your field and who can help you with local connections and be a guide of where to go and who to meet on the ground.
- Be extremely patient. Begin your trip with low expectations. Don’t be frustrated and be prepared for anything.
To hear more about the Shenzhen community, startups, and how China’s Greater Bay Area can be right for you and your company check out the full interview here with Jan Smejkal, China & Asia Pacific Director of Startup Grind.