Guangdong Province was once known as the “world’s factory”, possessing a large-scale labour-intensive industry that produced everything from toys to electronics to be sold around the world.
Due to increasing labour costs and the financial crisis, in 2008 the "world’s factory" started transforming and upgrading its manufacturing sector from labour-intensive to technology-centric; especially when in 2012, the Guangdong Government launched its Innovation Driven Development Strategy.
After five-years of development, the innovation sector has begun to take shape in Guangdong with more than 20,000 high-tech enterprises laying claim to over 160,000 valid invention patents yearly, topping any other region in China.
A human hand-shaped robot arm is displayed in the exhibition held by the Foshan Robot Academy during the “Internet+” expo.
R&D input occupied 2.5% of Guangdong's GDP, and this share is even higher than that of the majority of other known centers for innovation.
With a 70% of the world’s drone design and manufacture being conducted in Guangdong, the the province is gradually becoming the world leading drone R&D center .
Ghost Drone, the first app controlled drone developed by EHang.(Source: Ehang)
Why has Guangdong been able to become an ideal environment for people looking to start their own business, especially within the innovation sector?
Derrick Xiong Yi-fang, co-founder and chief marketing officer of EHang Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd, a Guangdong-based company focusing on drone R&D, gave his answer during an exclusive interview with Newsgd.com.
Starting a business is my dream
“The word ‘startup’ always excites me,” said Derrick. “The feeling is ‘wow, this is my dream! It is so cool’.”
Derrick remained in high spirits when talking about starting a business throughout the interview, even though at that time he had just returned to Guangzhou a couple of days previous after having undertaken a business trip to the United States.
Although Derrick is only 28 years old, he is already an experienced entrepreneur in various fields.
Derrick was 30 under 30 Asia 2016, selected by Forbes. (Source: EHang)
“Our teacher required us to run a registered company with a sustainable business model when I was a first-year student at Nanyang Technological University,” said Derrick. “So, I opened a consulting company, which provided market research and advice for SMEs.”
This was but his first step, quickly going on to establish the first Chinese group purchasing website in Singapore, developing a dating app in the U.S. and so on. In his own words, he describes himself as a “young entrepreneur running around all over the world“.
After gaining his postgraduate degree from Duke University, he decided to return to China and founded EHang in 2014.
Different from other drone companies which chose Shenzhen as their base of operations, EHang chose Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong.
“Choosing Guangzhou actually was pure coincidence,” Derrick told us. “But, after we settled down here, we found out the many benefits of Guangzhou.”
Zhujiang New Town, CBD of Guangzhou. (Guangzhou Tianhe Central Business District)
According to Derrick, Guangzhou has become a real talent magnet, because of its affordable cost of living, excellent educational resources and delicious food.
A survey released this year by ‘The Economic Going Global‘ (sic), shows that Guangzhou is the most affordable big city in China.
According to statistics, Guangzhou’s average housing price remains ar 16679 yuan/㎡, whereas average prices in Beijing and Shanghai have both now shot above 30000 yuan/㎡.
This relatively low cost of living have enticed some of the world’s innovation giants to settle in Guangzhou, such as Foxconn’s advanced display project, and AsianInfo’s headquarters.
The government also plays an important role in helping startups to grow.
“I am not a local resident, but the 'Talent Green Card' enables me to to gain 'local resident treatment' in the city,” Derrick indicated. "Furthermore, the government helped us to contact the best local law firm, patent office and trademark agency for IPR Protection."
Last year, Guangzhou launched its Green Card policy for both Chinese and foreign talent, enabling holders to enjoy equal treatment with other citizens in terms of purchasing property, vehicle license registration, children’s schooling, etc.
At the provincial level, the Guangdong Government has issued 16 measures to attract talented individuals to start business in Guangdong.
Moreover people who choose to establish their company in Guangdong can get a business license in just 20 days, a full 2 days faster than any other country or region can offer. In addition, in 2016 Guangdong‘s Government reduced taxes for high-tech enterprises and SMEs by more than ¥11 billion.