Shenzhen looking down Shennan Middle Rd.
Saturday night I landed at SFO after 3 weeks in Shenzhen, China. As the flight out approached, I had an unanswered question. How do you describe an experience that leaves you questioning so much? For every person I met, I came away with more questions than answers. This series of blog posts will try to answer many of these questions – questions many others have about Shenzhen. Many of the conversations I had contradicted each. The only conclusion I can confidently draw is Shenzhen is a land of contradictions changing in realtime.
A few of the topics I’ll cover in depth-
- If you use Chinese manufacturers they may copy your product, but the most likely won’t.
- There are clones, but they also include many interesting innovations.
- You can buy bulk products at the market, but what about Taobao?
- There is a huge push to support Makers, but China is not using the Western definition.
- The government is backing many companies, but many raise their own funding.
3D Filament Factory in Shenzhen
When I landed, I only knew a handful of people. From those I connected with people all over the city – from factory workers to hardware CEOs & investors. The lessons and experiences that will be in these posts are entirely possible because of the kindness of strangers & new friends. There are too many to list, but thank you to everyone who helped (and will read this on WeChat).
Because of that generosity, there are countless stories I could write about. One of the most interesting was finding the factory that assembles Shanzhai Apple Watches. By the end of this week, they will already have the next iteration of their watch to their best suppliers for feedback. It will be shipping in early May. The factory housed 1,000 workers assembling 6 different watches & phones. 5,000 units are coming off the line every day – and that is just one design. In a week, they can overhaul the line & have suppliers in place for a new design. Then repeat this process every single month. That is the type of speed and innovation (yes, even with the clones there is incredible innovation) that makes Shenzhen unique.
A few of the smart watches launched before the Apple Watch
Hopefully these posts will stir up a healthy dialogue. Like many Tindiarians in the west, I had my own preconceived notions of what to expect. The problem with Shenzhen is that it is so big, and growing so quickly that you are left trying to peg a moving target. However over the course of the next few weeks, hopefully you come away with a much more complex, nuanced view of this ecosystem.