Archive for June, 2012

Visit to Shenzhen and Seeed Studios

I just got back from 2 weeks in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Of particular interest was visiting Shenzhen, home of the Hua Qiang Bei electronics market. First off, going to mainland China is a bit of an adventure. You need to have a Chinese visa in hand before you leave (visas cost $140 for U.S. Passport holders) and you really want to bring someone who speaks Chinese. The first thing I found out, is that it’s best to have written directions in Chinese before you try to go anywhere. The Simplified Chinese characters for Hua Quian Bei are 华强北. If you only have the English name and/or pinyin spelling, you might have a hard time going anywhere. Fortunately, my wife speaks Mandarin and was invaluable in getting around and negotiating the market/etc.

Shenzhen has a very nice subway system that appears to be modeled after Hong Kong’s and is only about 2 years old. Hua Qiang Bei has it’s own metro stop, which is pretty easy to get to from Lo Wo if you’re coming from Hong Kong.

Once there, you’ll find an amazing electronics market that is something like all of downtown L.A.’s garment district, except filled with 6-story buildings populated with electronics vendors. And this is not a “trade show” market where nothing is for sale – literally EVERYTHING there is for sale, cash and carry. This is quite refreshing, compared to dealing with some of the large electronics vendors that won’t sell you anything without a sales call, signing of NDAs, etc. There is also a lot of crap and questionable stuff for sale as well, but the prices are good and haggling is expected. An interesting custom is that a lot of these folks invite you to sit and drink some tea if you buy something substantial from them.

Another interesting aspect of this place is just how many everyday “life activities” seem to go on in those market stalls – I saw people taking care of kids, making tea, eating, smoking, reading books, etc. This is in stark contrast to most U.S. stores that seem pretty barren of life by comparison.

After checking out the market, we headed over to Seeed Studios and met with them. I’d like to say that they have a really first-rate operation and people look happy there. The place has the feel of a “creative space” type business in the U.S. Pics:

Seeed has a variety of business activities that revolve around open-source electronics as well as some contract design and manufacturing. It’s really nice to see the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well. This part of China is bit like the “wild West,” and you can see construction cranes busy, people doing business and all sorts of stuff happening around you.


June 25, 2012


June 2012

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