This is the second post of Now in Shenzhen, where TechNode visits a handful of Shenzhen-based companies leveraging Shenzhen’s core strength: manufacturing.
Trouble Maker, a Shenzhen-based product development platform that helps people prototype, manufacture, and market, is now opening in Perth, Seoul, and Berlin as well as Norway and Myanmar.
Trouble Maker’s model is like a co-working space for makers who want to realize their product. Whether you are an individual or a company, people pay 1,200 RMB a month for a seat and get access to full help from professional engineers. They have access to all the equipment in the space to make a professional prototype, get injection molding, package design, do mass production, and distribute products.
“Hardware startups come and apply for HAX. If they are not selected, but you still want to do it, we welcome everyone else to come to us,” Henk Werner, CEO at Trouble Maker Shenzhen told TechNode. “For individuals, there are several maker spaces and co-working space with laser cutters and 3D printers, but no one that can teach you.”
Located at Huaqiangbei, the world’s largest market for electronic related items, members can easily find hardware components from the electronic markets.
With a focus on realizing members’ dream product, the gurus at Trouble Maker provide members hands-on support, charged on an hourly basis between RMB 100 ~ 400 depending on their experience. These “personal hardware trainers” can also choose to join the startup in exchange for equity. This model has resonated with expats who visited Trouble Maker and inspired them to start one in their cities.
“When people from other countries visit Shenzhen, they hear about us, then they visit us. Myanmar group spent one day with us, and the Korean group spent one month with us,” said Henk. “They see how we enable children and people to realize their prototypes and how we connect people. They see how the profit from the product goes to the people and doesn’t go to Trouble Maker.”
An easy way to explain Trouble Maker is “co-working space for makers” but the company does not make money from the seats. The earnings from the seats go to the real estate company, and Trouble Maker sustains itself with the training class for children and adults, and takes some fee from its “personal trainers” if they connected with the clients through Trouble Maker and after they get paid from their clients.
Meet Trouble Makers’s makers
Kevin Normann (71 years old, U.S.)
“I made a robot that can be used when I teach coding for children. It’s important for children to learn how to code. Robotics is interesting and python is easier to learn than other coding languages. I came here with nothing but an idea. Since last May I have been looking for a place to build my prototype. I found Trouble Maker in August, and I started with the 3D modeling, figured out the parts I needed, then got help from engineers to realize this. To make this model, I spent about RMB 700 to print out the models, and probably RMB 100 on parts.”
David Hemming (31 years, U.S.)
“I planned to stay here for 3 weeks, which ended up being 6 months. I saw more opportunity here, so I decided to stay here to do my own thing. I help early stage company’s in finding ideas, designing, manufacturing, and shipping to US. In PCH it takes 1 year and a half, but here at Trouble Maker it only takes 3 months. I had a client’s request to produce a barbecue grill, and I made this in just one week here.”
Yes, it’s a trouble maker, and there are some challenges that the 11-months-old Trouble Maker faces. Started by four expats living in Shenzhen, most of the people in Trouble Maker are foreigners. Another challenge is the language barrier and cultural barrier between English speaking group and Chinese-speaking group.
“While people at Trouble Maker are mostly expats, the key people in factory area, Longgang, are 98% Chinese. Here, in Trouble Maker, almost nobody speaks Chinese. Some Chinese people sit with us,” said Henk. “Then they leave because they are on their own. This is a pity. We hope to have more Chinese people in our space.”
Trouble Maker’s business model relies solely on training courses, but now that gurus are all tied up in their own projects, and assistance to the member’s projects, training classes are hard to maintain.
“We finance everything by ourselves, and that’s why we need more cooperation and investment. We want to attract more people to Trouble Maker,” Henk says.