The Collective 12|12 recently had an opportunity to visit Beijing and participate in a whirlwind tour of the innovation ecosystem that is being created there. In particular, we visited Beijing E-Town, which is a business development zone that covers ~50 square miles. This location houses a number of business development parks that are being created under the government’s mandate to support science and innovation. Each park focuses on a different technology systems and provides an all-in-one support system. Live, play and work all encompassed in one area just south of the capital city.
The Chinese government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building up these areas and laying down significant infrastructure and subsidies in order to put China on the map for innovation, science and entrepreneurship.
Within this ecosystem, three different types of office environments are emerging:
Traveling through the business development district, it was hard to miss the dozens of massive skyscrapers being erected. These massive buildings were being built to service companies that had already found product market fit and were incurring revenue. From the sheer scale of these glass behemoths, it was evident that the government was looking to house hundreds of companies in each one.
These office spaces were paired with massive shopping and entertainment centers as well as high end housing within walking distance.
The second type of office space available to companies was smaller office compounds in which a number of stylish office buildings were built around a central park or green space. Each building was built to house a single company and was equipped to provide companies with everything they needed to keep their employees productive. They included patios, coffee shops and cafeterias.
Finally, coworking spaces were also a popular option for startups and smaller businesses. For someone familiar with Calgary or Silicon Valley’s coworking spaces, these offices would look very familiar. You have multiple brightly colored rooms littered with desks and people furiously working away. There are a number of boardrooms and breakout rooms littered throughout the space and kitchen areas with coffee available to the startups. My favorite aspect of them, were a number of motivational decals intended to keep entrepreneurs energized and working hard.
Since these spaces are government mandated and supported, their starting point is much imitating what is being pioneered in the urban areas of Silicon Valley. What will be interesting to see is how these spaces evolve over the next thirty years. The biggest difference between the companies starting up in Beijing E-Town and the ones here is the focus on hardware. This means that they need different resources than a typical Silicon Valley style coworking space where the mantra is “hardware is hard”. My guess is that these spaces will look very different next time I have the opportunity to visit.