I think that every hardware startup should move, at least for some time, to Shenzhen. Product development here can move so much faster. I don’t think there is another place in the world which can offer you direct access to electronic parts, materials and equipment. After you find your way around, the process of finding any part you need is not much different than ordering pizza. And when you reach your final prototype, finding manufacturers is so much easier.
The key phrase here is “after you find your way around”.
I often joke with my western friends that visits to China should be on NASA’s astronaut training program because in your first visits, interaction with the average local is the closest one can get to a possible first encounter. One might imagine that the language barrier is an important issue, and it is, but it does not even start to compare with the cultural barrier. When you start doing business in China, you need help from someone who really understands what you need, whether it’s tangible or not, and can guide you in your first steps to find it.
Of course, since you just moved, another important thing is having access to a workspace with a workshop or a lab, to be able to continue developing your product.
That’s where the Chaihuo Makers Community come to your aid. Chaihuo is a community of makers just like you, willing to share their knowledge of making stuff and finding your way around the jungle of resources that the city has to offer. Becoming member of the community gives you access not only to that source of knowledge but also to x.factory, Chaihuo’s fully equipped lab. Whether you just need a desk to work with your laptop, some basic equipment like welding stations, multimeters and wire strippers or a workshop with 3D printer, laser cutter, lathe, CNC router and CNC mill, x.factory can provide anything you need to develop your project. And if you are not familiar with the equipment, Chaihuo organizes training workshop sessions where you can learn how to use them.
Training sessions are not the only events you can attend as a community member. Every now and then factory tours are organized, so that members can meet suppliers and learn the manufacturing procedures. And if you want to showcase your project, Chaihuo membership can probably secure a booth for you in some of the maker or startup fairs that take place in the city so often. This kind of events are great for networking.
And that’s not all. Chaihuo is a child of Seeed Studio, the IoT hardware enabler. That means you can easily develop your PCBs or PCBAs using Seeed Studio’s Fusion PCB service. And of course when you reach your final prototype, Seeed Studio can help you make it a commercial product by helping you crowdfund it, offering manufacturing services, logistics services etc.
Chaihuo’s help was essential in converting time² from a draft prototype to what it is today in around 6 months. It offered us the means to develop the product, learn manufacturing processes and even showcase time² in Maker Faire Shenzhen 2018 and TechCrunch International Innovation Summit 2018. But most of all it gave us the opportunity to meet and work beside amazing like-minded people and learn how to find our way in the jungle.
And for all of that we are grateful.