Business / Technology

Chinese tech startups seek dream 'from zero to hero'

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-10-01 16:15

BEIJING -- Would you like to eat Michelin-starred fine cuisine at home?

This could soon be a reality, thanks to Hu Kun, 36, the founder of smart kitchen maker Nise Sousvide Pro, which launched a crowd-funding campaign online on Wednesday to finance a device that will do just that. The company has prototypes of the device on show at the 2015 Beijing Maker Carnival, which opened on Thursday.

The seven-day tech festival is an annual event for Chinese "makers", technology enthusiasts who turn innovative ideas to commercial products.

Under the slogan "zero to hero", the event attracts young entrepreneurs, like Hu, who not only design but also run companies that manufacture and sell their own devices.

"Many Chinese makers are turning their hobbies into businesses," said Wang Shenglin, CEO of Beijing Makerspace, a laboratory for makers and co-host of the Chinese version of Maker Faire. "China is entering an era of 'all people innovate'."

Zeal from zero

The last burst of startups China witnessed was in the late 1980s and 1990s, when private sector grew remarkably due to the reform and opening-up drive. This zeal for "xiahai," or jumping into the commercial sea, spread from ordinary people to government officials who quit their jobs to follow their dreams.

The country is seeing a similar surge today. More than 10,000 new companies were registered every day in China for the past 18 months. Many were technology and Internet firms.

Alibaba's Jack Ma is held in high esteem by many budding entrepaneurs, as his story shows that it is possible to rise and become the next Chinese Steve Jobs.

Hu Kun is a former venture capitalist. He is leading a 30-plus team to develop affordable smart-cooking solutions for ordinary homes. They have received over 10,000 orders and plan to launch products in December.

College students are also encouraged to start businesses, with many universities bringing students, entrepreneurs, and investors together.

Under the support of an agricultural innovation incubator studio at Renmin University of China, seven graduates founded Guixiang Company earlier this year. The firm offers agriculture solutions to local farmers in the northeast province of Jilin.

"It's my dream to help build a better rural China, so residents can hear birds sing, grow green food and get rich," said Cai Wenbing, founder of Guixiang.

We can be heros

The path to success is not easy. Funding is a common stumbling encountered by many ambitious young people.

Without any assets, Hu Kun was rejected when he applied for a loan.

Thanks to Beijing Makerspace, he got secured investment of 10 million yuan ($1.57 million) from global venture capital firm Walden Int.

"Without the platform, the project may not have gone ahead," said Zhang Tingting, co-founder of Guixiang, who was glad to have secured backing from the college-based incubator.

"Many incubators only offer support when they think your project is promising, but we needed time to prove ourselves," she said.

The government is working to make things easier for the innovators and entrepreneurs as it hopes the industry will becomes a new engine to drive growth.

An ardent innovation advocate, Premier Li Keqiang urged local governments to enhance support for mass entrepreneurship and innovation during his most recent visit to a maker space in northeast China's Dalian.

And this is not empty talk:According to a guideline released by the State Council, China's cabinet, on Sept 26, the government will establish platforms, support crowd sourcing, and encourage private capital to invest in innovators, widening funding channels.

The guideline said that small- and micro-sized firms can turn to crowd-funding for funding and the government will look into regulation to protect borrowers.

It also promised easier market access by cutting red tape and improving supervision.

The government's push has not only pumped confidence into the market, but also raised concerns over whether bubbles are behind the booming businesses.

"Bubbles are inevitable in the process, and necessary, too, because only the fittest survive in the jungle." said Hu Kun, "I hope startups can focus on how to improve their products and service rather than wasting money on commercial schemes."

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