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Startup Guru Opens Founders Space in Dongguan

Songshan lake (SSL) continues to become a rising star with the opening of their latest addition. Find out what this new space means for the future of the SSL area and meet the mind behind the development.

Founders Space opened their new office in SSL and had an introduction weekend August 29 to September 1. Founders Space is one of the world’s leading incubators and accelerators with 50 partners in 22 countries worldwide. The SSL location is the fifth to open in China, with the first opening in Wuhan two and a half years ago.

Giving seminars on business development during the opening weekend was Chairman and CEO of Founders Space Steve Hoffman, better known as “Captain Hoff.”

He gave a small Office Hours seminar in the new space on August 31.

“It was just to try out. In the future we are going to try and be as open as possible and do a lot of events regionally to support the startup community,” Hoffman said.

The seminar gave an 11-step process on how startups should present their ideas to investors. At the end, Hoffman answered questions and listened to some pitches.

The focus of Founders Space is to connect startups and corporations while accelerating businesses. Hoffman said the number one reason for opening a Founders Space in SSL was because of the trusted partnership there.

“When you have trusted partners, everything goes so much better,” he said.

He added another reason was because of Dongguan’s geographic location between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as its proximity to Hong Kong.

“Dongguan is kind of like a rising star right now,” he said, mentioning Huawei and Vanke’s influence in the area. A lot of the big companies are setting up their research and development offices in Dongguan.

When he first came to China, he thought his business was mostly in Shenzhen, but saw Dongguan start to transform and pull in engineers for big-name companies.

“Founders Space, actually bridges startups with corporations, because a lot of times there’s synergy there, where the big companies can help the startups out. They can make investments. They can give them access to markets, all of these things,” Hoffman said.

The focus of Founders Space in Dongguan is on AI and emerging digital technology to build smart (technology-based) cities and smart (technology-based) lives. There is a strong investor network for these kinds of technologies in China, especially in Dongguan.

“We have close to 400 investors that we work with across China. And a lot of them are located in the Greater Bay Area,” he said.

There are three different ways Founders Space operates. They have their physical space, which is open to any startup to rent so long as space is available. Then there are different programs and seminars that are ran around the world.

“Some of those programs and events are free like you saw the Office Hours today. You know we just do it for free, it’s good for the community, it’s good for us. People know us and things like that and we build relationships,” Hoffman said.

Founders Space is more selective with the intensive long-term programs, especially if they are investing money and resources in the startup. He gave an example of their Silicon Valley space, saying they accept around three percent of the startups that apply to their most intensive programs.

“We don’t invest in every startup in our programs, other investors will do that, but we invest selectively in the startups that fit our model,” he said.

They collaborate with other accelerators, universities and government organizations that want to have teams learn at Founders Space. He said they got a lot of support from the local government to develop the area. The operation is very similar to the other locations. China has great importance to the company because of the size of the population and resources available, Hoffman said.

In the next five years they hope to be in every tier one city and most tier two cities in China, he said.