Starting up in Shanghai
Photo: A model of Shanghai in the urban planning museum
Shanghai stuck me as cosmopolitan in comparison to Beijing; more similar to any other global city I’ve visited. It has a large ex-pat population and that was reflected in the number of non-Chinese entrepreneurs I met.
Between one-to-one interviews, I had a wonderful welcome to co-working spaces Xin Dan Wei and People Squared, and had the opportunity to compare these relatively new spaces to the government-supported Zhangjiang High Tech Park, founded in 1992. (The latter announced a partnership with Berkeley at the end of 2011.)
It was interesting to gain an insight into how the Chinese government has approached supporting technology companies in the last two decades. In some ways, what I saw in Zhangjiang echoed aspects of the British government’s various interventions to make the UK a more conducive environment for company formation; from the creation of business parks through to increasingly encouraging previously government-sponsored initiatives to generate their own revenue.
One other government-related topic that came up a lot in Shanghai was the hukou system. Whenever I asked where my interviewees were from originally, the response of the vast majority was that they were native Beijingers or Shanghainese. This is largely due to the residency permits which restrict labour migration within the country. Many people expressed their frustration with the system and that it contributes to the hiring challenge my Beijing interviewees spoke of.
Shanghai brought my three-week trip to an end: I now have 30+ interviews and close to 30 hours of recorded material to sort through and pull insights from. Which is going to take me a little while! I’ll be posting the headlines here in a few months.
In the meantime, there are a few photos of my trip here.