With the recent shift in the global economic landscape, China can be a great place for startups, but landing successfully in the world's second largest economy can more difficult than it sounds.
From the southern manufacturing and innovation cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, to the finance powerhouse of Shanghai and the cultural center of Beijing, there are many distinct cities to choose from.
Startup in Beijing
Beijing not just the political and cultural capital of China, it also has a startup culture resembling Silicon Valley. There is a very high concentration of Venture Capitals, and an incredibly high concentration of universities. What's more, several government-run programs supporting entrepreneurs are also based in the capital. However, Beijing isn't the most efficient place for startups. The community is split by distance. Zhongguancun and the East Third Ring Road are two centers for startups that are quite far apart. Generally, B2C startups should be in Zhongguancun, and B2B along the East Third Ring Road.
Startup in Shanghai
Shanghai is by far the most western style city on the mainland. From bars and restaurants to architectures, Shanghai is beloved by many foreigners, making it easy to attract foreign talents. However, Shanghai also has the highest cost of living in mainland China, including both residential and office space. While the city is very friendly to foreigners, the industry is still focused on finance and retail, not tech.
Startup in Shenzhen
Shenzhen is China's first special economic zone, and it is next door neighbor to Hong Kong. Today Shenzhen is the headquarter some of China's largest tech companies such as Tencent, Lenovo, Huawei, BYD and TP-Link. The big advantage of Shenzhen is its proximity to manufacturing hubs, consumer electronics markets and factories as well as Hong Kong. Its unique position makes it a central hub in south China for innovation. There is an abundance of entrepreneurs from both China and the west, and the city is only gaining more and more momentum to become China's leading innovation city.
Startup in Chengdu
If you are looking for a mix of urban and rural integration, tradition with modernity, business with leisure, industry with the environment, Chengdu is the place to go to. It boasts excellent public transportation systems and infrastructure, also the living is much more affordable, resulting in lower HR costs without sacrificing quality. The lifestyle is also very well developed among inland cities, including amazing natural scenic areas within an hour's drive. The downside is that Chengdu is lack of tech savvy regional equity pools. Also it might take a while for you to adopt to the humid and gloomy weather.
Startup in Guangzhou
Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong province, also the center of global trade in China. It hosts the largest trade fairs and the immediate access to manufacturers in Guangzhou is in parallel with Shenzhen, making it very attractive to startups. And also note that many people in Guangzhou speak Cantonese. However, the younger generation all speak Mandarin, so this language issue shouldn't pose much of a barrier.