Zhang Weiyi, General Manager of Shanghai Ideaoptics Instrument Co., Ltd., has never thought he would be invited as the speaker to attend the Pujiang Innovation Forum to be held on October 26 this year. Pujiang Innovation Forum isn’t new to him. To Zhang’s knowledge, it is a high-level forum that even the mayor would attend. As General Manager of a micro-enterprise that has merely more than 10 staff, he felt extremely flattered to be treated as an equal with those entrepreneurs.
Zhang earns his admission because he attended the National Innovation Entrepreneurship Competition this year and did a good job. This also shows that 2013 Pujiang Innovation Forum is the most down-to-earth compared with the previous events. Among the speakers invited, there are not only domestic and foreign incubator leaders but also representatives of outstanding small and medium-sized technology enterprises, said Song Yang, Deputy Director of Shanghai Technology Innovation Center, also the organizer of the Entrepreneurs Forum.
“Failure tolerance” isn’t enough
Working on the incubator for over 20 years, Shanghai Technology Innovation Center has learnt pretty much about the advanced experience from foreign countries. However, while copying their systems mechanically, we can’t copy their cultural atmosphere. Despite the obvious increase of Chinese entrepreneurs in recent years, the entrepreneurial atmosphere remains insufficient compared with that in the foreign countries.
“Starting a business is always risky and failure can never be avoided. We’ve been advocating the tolerance of failure in recent years. By using tolerance, don’t you think that it means failure is something bad?” said Song Yang. In the communications with the Israeli incubators, Song noticed that they prefer to use respectful words to depict failure. In their eyes, to choose between two companies, they are more inclined to choose the one that has failed before to invest in.
“Failure is a valuable asset”, said Song Yang. “If we’ve got such cultural atmosphere, it will serve us better than more incubators.”
“Culture can really change people's entrepreneurial enthusiasm. With the emerging entrepreneurial culture, the number of people applying for a venture fund is growing at the rate of 50% per year in Shanghai, a city that is rich in the white-collar cultural atmosphere,” said Li Junbiao, Deputy Director of Shanghai Technology Innovation Center. In his opinion, as a city’s economy prospers, people may renew the definition of success while entrepreneurship makes a perfect presentation of the definition in the new era. General Manager of an ordinary small-sized enterprise being invited to deliver a speech on Pujiang Innovation Forum, it makes a good expression of the society’s confirmation to the entrepreneurs.
Investment “moves forward” while government “steps back”
More than 80 incubators and over 2000 incubated enterprises. The foreigners are often startled at the entrepreneurial figures of Shanghai. Small incubator is the mainstream in foreign countries, said Song Yang.
At present, there are merely over 10 large incubator enterprises, 3 to 4 small incubator enterprises and less than 10 incubator investors in foreign countries. Not required to follow any performance assessment nor fill in any unified forms, these investors hold shares and are well aware of the incubators.
For the sake of the economic system, China’s business incubator has been following a government-leading road from the very beginning. Although the unified planning and management once played a significant role, with the demand for quality projects, new incubator varieties has emerged, such as the private incubator, professional incubator and investors incubator, and won the favor of many enterprises due to the advantage that they help the entrepreneurs solve part of their venture funds.
“That’s a good thing. Since there aren’t enough state-owned incubators to satisfy the entrepreneurs’ needs, more incubator varieties provide more choices for the enterprises,” said Li Junbiao. The other benefit is the professionalism. State-owned incubators often serve various types of enterprises. In contrast, professional incubators, such as Zhangjiang Xinze Mobile Internet Incubator, which incubates exclusively the internet enterprises, provide deeper services and bigger help.
“In order to find a good project, the investors often implement the strategy of moving forward while we choose to step back,” said Li Junbiao. It is caused by the gradual transfer of the governmental functions to the market on the basis of the maturity of the incubator model.
Set up an export-oriented platform
After exploring the incubator construction for over 20 years, Shanghai Technology Innovation Center has set up an incubator platform within Asia. Relying on the platform, when a Chinese student who studies in Japan wants to return China after starting a business via the local incubator, he can transfer the business through the connection between the local incubator and Shanghai incubator. On the contrary, if any Chinese enterprises want to start a business in India, they can be introduced to the Indian incubators via the platform.
“Although there aren’t many export-oriented entrepreneurs in China yet the group has been growing year after year and there will be more export-oriented entrepreneurs in the future. What we are doing now is to set up the platform. When the entrepreneurs need, we will be able to serve them immediately,” said Song Yang.
It is said that the awarding ceremony of the Asian Association of Business Incubator will also be held on the Entrepreneurs Forum this year. By then, the Best Business Award, Best Technology Transfer Award, Most Potential Entrepreneur Award and other awards will be selected and serve wind vanes for the entrepreneurs.