CAI Wenya (Agatha)/ Waseda Business School Full-time Student
[Profile] Graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong; worked with IT/Technology companies in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Tokyo. Currently a full-time student at Waseda Business School (Msc. in Finance), and expected to graduate in September, 2021.
Hi, I am Agatha, currently a student at Waseda Business School, majoring in Msc. in Finance. In February 2020, I attended a WBS intensive course called ‘Shenzhen Industrial Clusters and Hardware Mass Innovation’, a lecture related to innovation in technology given by TAKASU Masakazu. Different from the other students in my class, I was the only student who is studying Finance, instead of pursuing an MBA program. You may be curious about what attracted me to take this MBA course.
Why did I choose this course?
Before I came to Japan, I was working at a startup company in Shenzhen called Insta360. This company, in my opinion, could be a representative example of ‘Shenzhen Speed’. As a young startup, Insta 360 has developed and produced 360-degree cameras and action cameras with a youthful, innovative and bold spirit, and has gained a competitive market share in the global market. When I was working as the Japan Marketing Manager for Insta360, I came into contact with many experts who are active in the hardware industry, and Mr. Takasu, the lecturer of this course, was one of them.
Having been active in the hardware business in Shenzhen and Japan, and frequently attending various global Marker Faire and makers’ events, Mr. Takasu is definitely an influential opinion leader in the hardware community and an expert in the study of Shenzhen innovation. He is even much more knowledgeable and professional than people who have worked in Shenzhen like me, and that’s one of the reasons that I took this course.
Even though I have worked in Shenzhen for a long time, I was still surprised by the city for its speed of development and ecosystem of innovation and decided to take this course to explore the reasons behind it. Thanks to Mr. Takasu, I finally know how great Shenzhen is for hardware practitioners and the essence of innovation in technology.
About Shenzhen and its Innovation
Shenzhen is a city built for technology innovation and development. In only 40 years, Shenzhen has developed from a fishing village to ‘Silicon Valley’ of China, and became the dream town for hardware business practitioners. In this lecture, Mr. Takasu emphasized how important and powerful hardware is for the society nowadays, and why Shenzhen has its unique ecosystem for hardware development.
The background for Shenzhen’s innovation is the huge scale of Shenzhen’s subcontracting business. The enormous manufacturing factories in Shenzhen provide hardware materials with high efficiency and low prices, which enhance the innovation of technology. Therefore, for manufacturing entrepreneurs in Shenzhen, they have a comparatively lower money and shorter time required to create new products and more chances to practice their ideas.
For example, in Insta360, it takes only several months to launch a new product, whereas their competitors in Japan may need 1~2 years to launch a similar product, including procedures like planning, designing, developing, producing the prototypes, testing and manufacturing in large scale. Moreover, Insta360’s products could be more innovative with more functions, and could even be sold with much lower prices. The ecosystem in Shenzhen promotes innovation as a very common culture, and young teams are encouraged to practice their ideas. Young team members and horizontal team structure simplified the whole innovation process and executed the procedures with extremely high speed and efficiency in companies like Insta360 in Shenzhen.
There are uncountable similar companies and teams existing in Shenzhen. Not all of them could survive, but all the entrepreneurs and innovators make the evolution happen continuously. It has been mentioned in the lecture that ‘one week in Shenzhen is like one month in Silicon Valley’, and the hardware in Shenzhen is evolving at the same speed as the software is in Silicon Valley.
Learning from the Experts – speakers invited to the classroom
Another wonderful thing about this lecture is that Mr. Takasu invited many professionals in the industry. It was a really great opportunity for me to learn from the experts and was able to understand the technology innovation in Shenzhen from many different perspectives.
The first speaker was Ms. Jie Qi, Ph.D. of MIT Media Lab and co-founder of a startup called Chibitronics. She introduced that MIT Media Lab believed and emphasized that the factory is a laboratory and Shenzhen is a classroom for innovation. Also, as a researcher, an artist and a startup Co-founder, she introduced the importance of prototyping what she thinks is interesting.
The Second speakers were from Switch Science and Switch Education, which is a small business founded in 2008, presented how they run their business from open-source hardware. And following that, Mr. Inouchi, working in Ricoh, introduced how he brought innovation and prototyping culture in a conventional company, which was really interesting and infectious.
The last speaker was Prof. Junichi Akita from Kanazawa University. He gave us a clear explanation on Moore’s Law and shared his DIY activities experiences of himself and in Kanazawa University. It was my first time to have a basic understanding of semiconductor innovation, and learn about the democratization of technology.
Above all, I have to say the lecture, “Shenzhen Industrial Clusters and Hardware Mass Innovation”, is filled with knowledge about Shenzhen, technology innovation, and voices from different perspectives of speakers. In addition, Mr. Takasu, the instructor, continued to provide extremely valuable information with continuous effort during all of the 13 lecture sessions. Thanks to Mr. Takasu, Prof. Maki, and WBS for providing such a great opportunity for students like me to have a unique experience in WBS and I deeply appreciate the diversified and practical lectures provided.