Javen Zheng on Guangzhou's Startup Community

By Ryan Gandolfo, April 23, 2021

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Game Theory is a regular series where we speak with a professional with insight into China’s business and tech scene.

Prior to being a business innovation consultant, Javen Zheng was a tech journalist at Southern China Media Group, a publication company with significant influence in southern China. His passion for building a sustainable startup ecosystem and helping valuable ideas spread led him to the role of co-director at Startup Grind Guangzhou, where he’s hosted over 30 monthly events to connect entrepreneurs with local startups and help them grow their businesses. 

We reached out to Zheng to learn more about Guangzhou’s startup community and his role with Startup Grind.

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How’d you get started with Startup Grind Guangzhou? What’s your background?
Five years ago, I started my first business in Macao, and my business partner told me about Startup Grind and that they were in partnership with Google for Startups. The format would be a fireside chat between an interviewer and a successful entrepreneur – along with networking and some food and drinks. 

I remember at the first Startup Grind Guangzhou event that I joined, the speaker was KK Wong, the co-founder of Xiaomi. That event inspired me a lot, and I decided to apply for the co-director position at Startup Grind Guangzhou.

Organizing Startup Grind events is a great opportunity to help startups grow faster and make more new friends to help each other in Guangzhou. It’s been a wonderful thing for me.

How would you describe the startup community in Guangzhou?

For the people who want to start their own business, is a great entry point to the startup world. For the entrepreneur who wants to scale their business, it is a good opportunity to connect them to more commercial resources.

You can meet so many interesting people and possibly find your [business] partner at the event. Startup communities in Guangzhou connect startups to corporations and facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships. Startup Grind Guangzhou community gatherings open up networking opportunities that help build chemistry among stakeholders to potentially cement a partnership or at least learn about the unique perspective of startups and corporations alike.

While covering tech as a journalist in South China, did you notice any trends in entrepreneurship that reflect China’s rise in startups?
This past year, we could see several new business trends emerge from the world’s second-largest economy. Here are the trends in entrepreneurship that would be worth watching out for.

1. Rise of Chinese Brands

Ten years ago, many Chinese brands made an effort to look like they were a foreign product to attract local customers. Now, things have changed – more and more brands are molding themselves with Chinese traditions and style.

“People born during the ’90s are more enthusiastic about paying for purchases in installments, and they maintain this higher level of current spending by not buying a home”

2. Structural Change in Investment and Consumption

In the next few years, the Chinese middle class will become the main force behind consumption. In 2019, consumer retail spending increased 8% year-on-year. People born during the ’90s are more enthusiastic about paying for purchases in installments, and they maintain this higher level of current spending by not buying a home.

3. Leader in High Technology

Chinese high technology, such as 5G, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and autonomous vehicles, which have been developing rapidly for several years, is now entering a new stage with China at the forefront.

Are there any differences you’ve noticed between Chinese entrepreneurs today and their predecessors?
Chinese entrepreneurs today are generally savvier, wealthier and more experienced than their predecessors.

The current generation of successful entrepreneurs largely comprises those with significant work experience and extensive extant business knowledge. Furthermore, many of these founders have overseas experience or have been exposed to international media covering related industries. Chinese entrepreneurs know about cutting-edge technological developments emerging in Silicon Valley and can quickly emulate and adapt those concepts to the China market.

Has Startup Grind Guangzhou had to make any changes over the past year? If so, what were they?
To adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Startup Grind Guangzhou launched an online media program and hosted webinars to connect local entrepreneurs and global commercial resources. We found that it’s a more effective way to connect local startups and entrepreneurs from all around the world.

This interview has been edited for clarity. To learn more about Startup Grind Guangzhou, add Javen Zheng (Javen_V) on WeChat.

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[Cover image via @fwtkuang/Instagram]

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