Zhongguancun, the Silicon Valley of China in Beijing. On the 2nd floor of a plain-looking building, lies a cafe for entrepreneurs named ‘Garage Cafe’. According to its founder, 32 years old Su Di who used to be an investor, the brand name reflects the practice of how innovative initiatives in Valley build up their empires from a modest garage, like HP, Apple, Google and YouTube.
The cafe claims to be the first open office space for Chinese startups and entrepreneurs. For the cost of one cup of coffee entitles you to a whole day stay with free access to Wi-Fi, office facilities and even meeting rooms.
Since its founding in April of this year, Garage Cafe has earned its fame with the frequent visiting of entrepreneurs, venture capitalist and internet practitioners. There’re bunch of startups stationed there, making the place more of a office space.
Not far from Garage, there is a 3WCafe which situated in one corner of an office building and BetaCafe which located in China Technology Exchange Building, at which Innovation Works is headquartered. People who frequent there are neither hipsters nor lovers, vast majority of them are those involved in internet businesses, investors, entrepreneurs or people who are considering starting his/her own company.
All they talk about in these cafes are business model, product and function design. It’s no surprise to find a twentysomething pitching a fresh idea to an investor.
With the increasing penetration of internet and market potential, combined with the influx of venture capital; starting a business is no longer something beyond the reach of anyone.
China has become the second largest VC market in the world.
Out of all these initiative takers, some are serial entrepreneurs whose life is inspired by the challenges of the unknown. They are seasoned in doing a company with wide connections and abundant funding choices.
But for a vast majority of venture takers, many are rookies with inadequate connection and little experience. All they have is a vague idea with a firm belief. They know little or even nothing beyond product design and development, like how to register a company and to deal with legal affairs. Rather than just funding, they’re more in need of “hand in hand” coaching and “save all your hassles” services by incubators, such as YCombinator and TechStars in the States, and Innovation Works in China.
Those incubators provide startups with seed funding as well as all-around services in financing, legal affairs, human resources, marketing, operating etc. Besides, startups will be served with necessary info sessions for industry know-how. For instance, Innovation Works which was founded by former Google China head Kaifu Lee launched its own incubation program “Jump Start”, through which startups will receive a set of resources, including RMB 150,000 (US$ 23,452) seed fund, 4 months of incubation period in Innovation Works Beijing headquarter, free access to a bunch of package service regarding legal affair, finance, human resource, IT and marketing. After the incubation period, all projects will be assessed by Innovation Works and be set up with angel investors, big-name venture capitals for further talks as regards to new investment.
“Make The Most Out Of Here”
Many startup teams which made it to Jump Start program recall vividly the first day they joined Innovation Works, Kaifu Lee delivered a welcoming speech telling them to “make the most out of their stay.”
Some believed that, to some extent, money is the less important thing in entrepreneurs’ long march and the most indispensable and valuable stuff for them are resources. Money helps you stick around for a while, but resources actually help you keep growing.
On top of aforementioned benefits such as seed fund and free office space, Innovation Works also cook up a series of delicious recipes for their coaching syllabus called “Boot Camp”.
According to Dora Cui, Operating Manager of Innovation Works’ Jump Start Program, they carefully devised a tailor-made “Boot Camp” scheme to guide these young and promising venturers. Kaifu Lee and Wang Hua, co-founder of Innovation Works also give lectures to help them improve on their products. Except for internal resources, successful founders like Yang Bo (Douban.com founder and CEO), Wang Wei (tudou.com founder and CEO) are also invited to share their experience in starting a business from scratch. And program participants who are specializing in a certain area will also be invited to share with their peers.
For Jump Start program participants, time at Innovation Works is too valuable to waste. That’s why Innovation Works worked out a format of “lunch meeting” for lecturing and sharing without taking up too much of their time so they can focus on product design and development. Bai Jie, marketing director of Innovation Works said that Kaifu Lee always shares experience and gives advices during lunch time with these venture takers gathered around him.
Life Is Too Short To Work In Boring Companies
It’s hard for those who are not involved in startup business before to imagine the pressure entrepreneurs undergo. According to some Jump Start program members, even after joining Innovation Works with lots of hassles being taken care of by someone else, they are still overwhelmed by the hardship and stressfulness coming out from starting a business. They still undergo tremendous pressure, but in a good way.
Before joining the program, venture takers work alone without frequent sharing and mutual support with their peers. But now even though working on different projects, they are starting up their own businesses together. Hence they have someone else to communicate and experience all that takes to realize a wonderful idea. They stir up each other and eventually become each other’s inspiration.
That’s why those incubator teams noticeably grow up at a faster pace compared to the progress they made before. They used to have only unfulfilled ideas, but now they’re capable of turning that into real business.
Life is too short to work in boring companies, since the current era is considered to be the best time to start up a business, why not hop on the opportunity to work for yourself.