China's startup culture thriving despite slowing economy

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SHENZHEN — China’s economic slowdown is making no dent in the business startup boom that is changing the landscape of the country’s manufacturing sector.

As private-sector companies and consumers are replacing swollen and often inefficient state-owned enterprises as the main drivers of China’s economic growth, Chinese entrepreneurs are racing to capitalize on the trend shift. China has become the second-largest breeding ground of new businesses after the U.S.

Many of the startups that are mushrooming in China are entrepreneurial babies that have been born in the hotbed of manufacturing technology the country has accumulated over years as the factory of the world and are feeding on the purchasing power of the vast domestic market.

The growing ranks of Chinese technology startups are creating potentially lucrative innovations.

From manufacturing to development

Shenzhen-based robotics startup NXROBO’s new Big-i robot aims to be a helper and friend in people’s homes.

At an office of NXROBO, a Shenzhen-based maker of household robots, you can interact with the Big-i, a cylindrical robot with a large circular liquid crystal display “eye” that can be personalized for families. Give the command “follow me” to the robot, and it turns its head toward you and follows. The company is now putting the finishing touches on the machine, which will soon hit the market.

Armed with advanced voice-recognition technology, a camera and moving functions, the Big-i can recognize people and have conversations with them. It can also control home electric appliances remotely in response to orders. NXROBO has started accepting orders for the robot at a cost of $799 per unit.

The company was founded in August last year with money raised through crowdfunding. It has managed to develop a marketable product in just a year.

NXROBO CEO Lam Tinlun stresses how fast things change in Shenzhen, an industrial hub in Guangdong Province. One week in this vibrant city is worth one month in Silicon Valley, he said.

Shenzhen, home to clusters of electronic parts makers and other companies in the techdom, is now transforming itself.

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