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Ex-Apple worker plans China startup

Updated: 2015-04-06 11:39
By Lia Zhu in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

Jason Zhang, a former Apple employee in California, has visited Shenzhen three times this year, and said this time he will not leave.

He has just had his company Maxfun registered in the Chinese city and plans to launch its product soon.

"To customers, our product is a sort of rewards card; but to businesses, what we provide is a service that helps them to reach out and interact with customers through the analysis of purchasing data collected by the 'rewards cards'," Zhang said.

"For example, our software can tell a caf who spent the most last month, what type of people are the most frequent customers, and when they are most likely to visit the caf," he explained.

A graduate of managerial economics at the University of California-Davis, Zhang said this product was originally his college project, and the model has been tested successfully in the United States.

With years of experience as a product manager at an Apple Store, Zhang said he has always wanted to launch his own startup, and China is a perfect choice for its huge market.

He is confident that the large number of small businesses, such as cafes, beauty shops and hair salons, will provide opportunity for his company.

Last year, Zhang secured an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars from zPark Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm.

Zhang said he came into contact with the investors on a platform set up by the Silicon Valley Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs (SVACE), an organization that aims to help professionals and entrepreneurs connect to resources.

Zhang's team, including three other Chinese engineers who used to work for Silicon Valley-based tech companies, is among many groups that have returned to China to launch startups, according to Olina Qian, founder of SVACE.

According to Zhang, he personally knows four or five such teams that are developing hardware, or Internet- and finance-related products.

"Almost every month, I was told some teams had returned to China," Qian said. "It's not only because China's a big market, but also its favorable policies and environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship."

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on numerous occasions has put forward "mass entrepreneurship and innovation" as an approach to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth.

More than 10,000 companies or enterprises on average are opened every day in China, an increase of nearly 50 percent over last year, Li told reporters at the conclusion of this year's National People's Congress.

"We learned that some preferential policies have been made to encourage innovation and startups," said Qian. "In Shenzhen, college students are allowed to take a leave to start up their businesses."

Zhang agreed. He said quite a few science and technology parks in Shenzhen have reached out to them and offered office venues.

Qian said she has witnessed an increasing number of Chinese engineers and professionals leaving Silicon Valley and returning to China to start up their own businesses since her SVACE was established in June.

"I remember there were only around 30 people coming to our first event. But now we have over 3,000 members, including entrepreneurs, venture investors and tech professionals both in the US and China," said Qian, who just quit her job as an engineer at Symantec Corp.

She said the organization's concept is to connect Silicon Valley's technology with China's investment and market.

"We have constant interest from Chinese investors looking for projects in Silicon Valley. I think more Chinese entrepreneurs are going back to start up their projects in the future," Qian said.


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