Editor’s note: This was contributed by Loic Kobes, co-founder and CEO of Coolhobo, a company that leverages AR and VR to create new shopping experiences in-store and at home.

Shenzhen embodies the rapid transformation China has been going through during the last 35 years. From a fisherman village to the capital of tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship, the city is at the frontline of China 4.0 economy. TechCrunch/Technode organized its first event there and brought their standards with them: massive, qualitative, English-speaking and fun.

Here’s a quick overview:

YouTube video

TC at I-factory, the hipster place

Fairs and events usually take place in convention or exhibition centers, highly standardized venues – and usually quite boring ones. Even though we were missing the comfort of the AC, sweating like marathon runners for 2 days, I-factory is an unconventional place, an old factory which would please hipsters and urban new age freethinkers. Participants were brought into the factory through silos and high chimney stacks to finally get into the arena where dozens of startups were exhibiting their latest breakthroughs.

Combining Shenzhen’s 80’s factories with modern equipment definitely gave us the feeling we were part of the future economy, where value is created by lines of code and no longer by lines of goods. The official language of the event was English, which I couldn’t more happy about. I respect and understand people wanting to use their native tongues and I would love to use my own language from time to time. But in a global economy, with products being made and sold all over the globe, everyone using English just makes it easier. Without communication issues, we’ve met new partners, friends, clients, and investors, usually over local craft beers, cold-brew coffees or traditional German sausages. It was 2 awesome days, can’t thank enough

Without communication issues, we met new partners, friends, clients, and investors, usually over local craft beers, cold-brew coffees or traditional German sausages. It was an awesome 2 days; I can’t thank enough TechCrunch, TechNode, TechSauce and all sponsors for that event – and of course Chinaccelerator for sponsoring our booth.

Innovative startups

Shenzhen’s thriving entrepreneur community has proven that innovation is happening here, not only for hardware but in many verticals. IoT, AR/VR, AI, smart mirrors, bikes, cars or robots, dozen startups were showing their products and demos. We had a lot of fun trying new experiences, challenging entrepreneurs and most importantly for us, collecting feedback. Congrats to every participant and of course to firstshotz.com for winning the pitch competition!

Innovation involves the deliberate application of information, imagination, and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. At early stages, it’s hard to perceive how useful or valuable some crazy products could become. In this regard, innovation is messy: it’s happening everywhere by small pieces, by diverse players, by out-of-the-box thinking talents. But with such a collaborative community, founders can easily bring those pieces together to create tomorrow’s international leaders.

Shenzhen has no past, so it can only look ahead

When a city grows from 30,000 inhabitants in 1979 to an estimated 20 million today, it roots a certain mentality in its citizens: everything is possible. Finding the right balance between foreign and domestic capital, the city has positioned itself at the leader of innovation, spending over 4% of its GDP on research and development (R&D). The success is undeniable: 45% of China’s international patent applications in 2016 were filled by Shenzhen companies.

So yes, Shenzhen once was a factory city, conveniently exporting its production through HongKong. But that period is now definitely over and TechCrunch Event again proved it. Factories moved further into Guangdong to give space to Tencent, Huawei or ZTE. Those companies attracted talents, capital, and ideas. Many former corporate executives left their job to start it up here, finding the fertile ground. Young people from all over China and overseas are gathering here to make ideas come to life. If you still believe Shenzhen is all about manufacturing, come to check out yourself, we’ll be happy to show you around.

TechNode Guest Editors represent the best our community has to offer: insight and perspective on how technology is affecting business and culture in China

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