Summer trek — Stanford Chinese Entrepreneurship Association

This summer. I was lucky enough to be part of a group of entrepreneurs, investors visiting Shenzhen for three days. I have been to Shenzhen before, this time, I was shocked and amazed by the dynamics of the city, the innovation landscape and the start-up landscape. The only place I can imagine comparable to this is the sillicon valley during the 1980s.

Shenzhen in the 1990s is see as the new frontier for Chinese youngsters. Now it is home to some of the world’s leading tech and finance companies such as Huawei, Ping An, Tencent. The ecosystems developed around these firms are strong. Even a few months in the pandmic, they did not show the sign of diminishing industries as I observed in Michigan (2013) or southern Europe.

I will separate the businesses I visited by hardware and software companies, just to make it easier to remember. We also visited startup incubators in Shenzhen, which is another story.

The first start-up we visited is AUTO X. Apparently now in Shanghai, there are already robo taxi on the road running, which can be ordered through A Map. (See BBC interview). The CEO was an assistant professor at Princeton before he decided to found the start up. With the nickname of Professor X, I saw his publication list. As a final year PhD, I am appalled that someone a few years older than me can achieve so much. He has some interesting insights regarding how to deal with profits and burning cash, and the business model. In the beginning, it is difficult to boost the bottom line, particularly because the world is not prepared for such technology. Yet I realized that to be successful, one has to remain confident, and focused. I find him charismatic, down to earth and surprisingly very direct. Similar to many of the entrepreneurs I met, his life includes flying from one city to another, talking to government officials and make deals.

The next start-up which leave a deep impression on me is Royole. They are the manufacturer for flexible displays. On the demo, I saw the progress made in new materials. A screen can be as thin as a film and it is fully flexible. They have 8 billion investment on the factories. The founder unfortunately did not show up. The application scenario is many. I find it difficult to understand their business model other than advertising and the use in IoT. I imagine it would be difficult to keep the bottom line.

To be continued….