Is Your City China’s Silicon Valley?

According to 2018 China City Business Appeal Ranking by Yicai Media Group’s big data department The Rising Lab, Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are the 4 cities most attractive to businesses.Yeah, that is no surprise. Those are the top-tier cities in China.
But why? For foreign entrepreneurs, will the result be different? And can foreign entrepreneurs find the same success as their local counterparts?
In an interview, our mentor Richard Robinson mentioned 5 reasons why Beijing is the best place on the earth to start a business, one of them being that “Beijing is certainly not just the Silicon Valley of China, but of all of Asia.”In this article, we also asked our friends “Why did you choose [this city] to start or run your business” and their answers are below.


 

SHANGHAI

Speed

Diversity

Creativity

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Huanry Huang, Founder of MeetUGo.Com
After attending a blockchain party with BD, marketing people and investors, I back to my apartment with more than 50 roommates. Roommates ask me to have gamble with them, I tell them I’d better spent time on blockchain. They start to baidu this new concept. Shanghai is the city you can live in different places from skyscraper to underground, day and night.
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Brian Tam, Founder of Let’s Make Great
Why Shanghai?To explore! In my first few years, I tried to be a TV show host, work in video production, co-found a healthy food delivery startup, and stints in various PR, branding and marketing roles.  None really worked out, but it was Shanghai’s speed and forgiveness that gave me a chance to experiment and discover latent creative skills… skills that I use now as a creativity consultant for growing companies!  Explore!
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Abdelhak Benkerroum, founder of Eastheimer International
My business has been growing with double digits ever since I moved to Shanghai. Everything moves faster here: business, people, life. If you get tired of Shanghai, you get tired of life.
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Marian Danko, founder and CEO of China Classifieds
I am sure the expat market will keep on growing and China Classifieds will be the place to serve and help English-speaking communities in China, including expats, returnees, professionals, students, interns, and travelers. We started out from Shanghai, because it’s truly diverse, dynamic and international city in China.
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Gianmarco Meli, Founder and CEO of Groupmall
The first week I came to Shanghai I got a part in a Jackie Chan movie as a Roman soldier. It was love since then. Shanghai is the most dynamic, fascinating and controversial city I’ve ever seen. It’s an inspiring place for entrepreneurs and an incredible startup hub perfect for founders to experiment, learn and build the next big ideas.
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Victor Lee, CEO of Bitcurate.co
Shanghai! The pearl of orient. The hustling, the culture and the centre of finance and business in China. I love the vibrant community of mix languages of putonghua and English. Great energy! Support by the startup community and tons of co-working spaces and coffee shops to meet with customer and business partners. 
 

BEIJING

Talents

Culture

Decision Makers

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Rich Bishop, founder of AppInChina
I originally chose to live in Beijing simply because I’d spent a lot of time in Shanghai and wanted a change. Both are great cities to live in and start a business, but Beijing undoubtedly has a stronger startup ecosystem. This includes more investors, more tech companies, more events, and a great pool of talent from the many universities based in Beijing.
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Timo Calder, Founder of Yue Club
For me, Beijing was an obvious choice because there is more money, attention, and respect for the education industry here than probably anywhere else on the planet.When getting into business in Beijing as a foreigner, I would say you should definitely moonlight and try out your new idea while you still have a fulltime job and a valid work visa. I worked on the side for 2 years before I felt comfortable enough to go out on my own.
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Enoch Li, Founder of Bearapy
My business is on changing company culture and executive mental wellness. I chose Beijing (and in part Shanghai) to base my business because most of the senior business decision makers are based in these cities – and my business requires the support of these people to push through large-scale culture and mindset changes in the companies. So, it makes sense to be where these counterparts are.Beijing also has a great connection to academia, press, geopolitics, and international organizations – and they form part of my network and collaboration partners, plus also here, a topic as mental health can be discussed in a diverse way that connects to different fabrics of society.
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Richard Coward, CEO of China Admissions
It is because Beijing is home of the Chinese language and capital city of China, also has the best universities 🙂 I think it’s to study at a university because then you can learn Chinese and build up the network, and it’s better to choose a university where you will be able to make relevant connections to what you want to do.
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Hannah Ren and Stella Jiang, Co-founders of Bella Brawn
As a fashion brand for activewear, that provides stylish clothes for women gymgoers, we saw first-tier cities as an obvious first entry point, due to the level of consumer sophistication in fitness lifestyle awareness. Especially as our clothes are designed to be fashionable enough for both the gym and outside of it (e.g. office and social), our audience are women who lead busy lives and understand the value of time and comfort.In addition to being where our target market is, the other obvious reason is that Beijing is where we grew up and have our network, and a start up, you want to choose a place where you have a supportive community.
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Ashwin Agrawal, Founder/Producer of Nat Global Creative Services
I’ve been in a lot of different industries and my predominant expertise, apart from hotel and restaurant management which has been my family business and my earliest experience with entrepreneurship, has been in the field of producing high end visual effects. Beijing being the hub of the film industry in China made it the obvious choice. I came here for a film project called The Greatwall, fell in love with the city over 2 years and never looked back.That’s when I started a company providing affordable high quality CGI to Chinese clients, most of whom are based in Beijing. Other cities have their own charm too. We are also into advertising and many of our clients are advertising production houses and agencies and they are all based in Shanghai. Soon we would need to become bipolar and in love with both the cities. 🙂
The best way to enter this country in any industry is doing it from scratch and building relationships from the ground up. Learning the language will start to become a very important need at one point and the sooner you start the better. I’m still struggling with that aspect but I have a team that is very helpful in that respect. That’s another thing you need to understand. You can’t go at it alone, even if you think you are a rockstar. 😉

SHENZEHN

Young

Hardware

Design

Policy

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Loic Kobes, Cofounder & CEO of 胡罗舶 Coolhobo
We’re in Shenzhen by choice and accident.Choice because it’s a tech city, providing a pool of tech talents ready and motivated to jump into in the new computing platform – the reality shift, or any form of altered reality (AR,VR,MR, XR). Choice also because Shenzhen citizens are young, open-minded and curious, hence being eager to try and adopt new technologies.And accident because the founders met in Shenzhen while working in different industries. We’re happy here but ultimately, we’re building a platform that has no borders, so we can’t wait to conquer more cities!
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Don Wilder, founder of Somadesignlab.com
I came to Shenzhen because I do hardware development. And it’s convenient to connect with suitable manufacturers.
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Saravanakumar Kandasamy, co-founder of Madrasters
Shenzhen is an amazing city, no wonder people call it “The silicon valley of hardware”. If you have the passion for product or service, you can find people who can stand by you and work together to achieve your dream.This city has constructed with an entrepreneurial vibe in every bricks. Moreover, your growth will be accelerated in rocket speed in Shenzhen, I have witnessed startup became a million dollar company in two years. Shenzhen is a city of the perfect blend of hardware, design, art, and culture.
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Jan Smejkal, China & APAC Community Director of Startup Grind
In China, every city has its pros and cons when it comes to setting up a business. All the cities compete for tech startups and talent from all around the world. Apart from top tier megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, we could have seen an amazing rise of startup ecosystems of Chengdu or Hangzhou in the recent years.One of the new policies Shenzhen government is using to attract talent is so-called “Entrepreneur” visa. Recent graduates (within one year after graduation) can now apply for this type of visa.The process is fairly simple (compared to other types of visa) and takes a couple of days. I see this as a big step forward.

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