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Discover China: Shenzhen helps Latin American entrepreneurs to conquer the world

“There’s a new Silicon Valley in Shenzhen.” This is what Mr. Guang Ping, President of the Export Import Bank of China, said in December 2015. It is the fastest growing city in China, and a regional hub for innovation. The city is a storybook kind of place, from its exquisite three-story ancient tomb houses to the gleaming futuristic office buildings. In my experience, Shenzhen is also the place to experiment.

Located in Shenzhen, China, on the Pearl River Delta – a world-class economy powerhouse – is nowhere near Tokyo or London. But because of a handful of iconic companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and JD.com, Shenzhen has become China’s tech capital.

These companies developed technologies that rapidly changed how we communicate, work, shop, and play. By simply identifying an amazing new idea, Shenzhen has filled up its unique network with thousands of early adopters. Today, Shenzhen has blossomed into one of the most important global hubs for innovation.

Each year, the prestigious Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) finds that fewer and fewer young people are interested in starting businesses. It used to be the case that a good entrepreneur needed two hands to count how many opportunities are out there. Now, the basic ingredients for a successful startup company – such as access to capital, talent, knowledge, and expert networks – are so abundant that they have become self-sufficient.

But Shenzhen has proven that a good entrepreneurial environment is only half the battle. Having played such a vital role in the development of China’s burgeoning tech sector, local governments in Shenzhen want to make their city the next Silicon Valley of the 21st century.

Collaborative innovation and digital industrialization are key to Shenzhen’s future development. These patterns drive the rapid transformation of Shenzhen from a traditional manufacturing center into a knowledge-based economy. They also make it a great destination for collaboration among innovators around the world.

Bentel Telecom-Philippine, a provider of fixed line, internet, and digital telecommunications services, teamed up with Ernst & Young China to develop Shenzhen Summer Lab, a co-op learning and bootcamp for Southeast Asian startups. Proficiency in the specialties of coding and tech talent development is crucial. Shenzhen Summer Lab’s partners include China’s leading venture capital firms and technology giants including Tencent, Baidu, Foxconn, and Alibaba. The program’s duration is four months, during which participants put together their first solutions. According to Bentel’s program director Brian Cheung, “there is the need to prepare the local tech talent with the right skills. The aim of the program is to provide more job opportunities to Chinese youths.”

On September 18, Bentel hosted the first edition of Shenzhen Summer Lab, an incubation program for startups in IT services and technology.

“This is a new model for incubation programs in the emerging markets. We hope that this program will help entrepreneurs in Shenzhen to come up with their business ideas, and attract more job opportunities to startups”, said Mr. Cheung.

From a mere 50-bedroom apartment 30 years ago, Shenzhen has grown from the sunset of the manufacturing era into one of the most active startup hubs in China. It is a testament to ingenuity and perseverance that it has done so. And perhaps, such innovation and resilience can help make China a great global business partner.

Discover China is a new initiative from The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation. It explores China’s global role as a top innovator. Discover China is a major initiative of ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh’s 50-Year Strategic Framework, which aims to build ASEAN into a global destination for innovation.

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