En­tre­pre­neur from Canada finds home from home in Shen­zhen

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By CHAI HUA in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong grace@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

“In the first week we got here, we com­pletely changed our de­sign,” said Asif Khan, from Canada, who is now start­ing his own busi­ness in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Khan is work­ing on new mold­ing tech­nol­ogy that can au­to­mat­i­cally change its sur­face so that man­u­fac­tur­ers can quickly and eas­ily ad­just their mold­ings.

The core of his de­sign is the “PinPress”, a cube, as small as a ping­pong ball, with many metal pins in­serted in it.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers only need to pro­gram their com­puter for the shape they re­quire, and the pins will be ad­justed ac­cord­ingly.

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When they need to pro­duce an­other shape, they just change the de­sign on the com­puter.

The de­vice seems sim­ple, but the dif­fi­culty is how to power these pins to move. In Khan’s orig­i­nal de­sign, he used a high elec­tric cur­rent, but if it is too high, the pins tend to melt or get burnt.

He said the chal­lenge was to find the bal­ance of dif­fer­ent vari­ables, such as the amount of elec­tric­ity and the size of the pin.

Now he uses mag­nets in­side 3-mm-wide pins and a lot less elec­tric­ity, which solved his prob­lem. “In the be­gin­ning, we were not even us­ing mag­nets be­cause they were too big and ex­pen­sive in Canada,” he said.

But he found China has the tech­nol­ogy to make small mag­nets, not too small but just the right size for the PinPress, and the cost is much less be­cause it can be mass-pro­duced.

Khan came to Shen­zhen for the first time in July 2015. “When I came here, I was sur­prised there were so many things we could do,” he re­called.

Then he went back to the Univer­sity of Water­loo in Canada to fin­ish his mas­ter’s de­gree in var­i­ous math­e­mat­i­cal solvers, af­ter an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in Nan­otech­nol­ogy En­gi­neer­ing.

In the Sep­tem­ber 2016, he and some of his class­mates came to Shen­zhen again with HAX Ac­cel­er­a­tor, one of the world’s largest hard­ware in­cu­ba­tors.

With of­fices in Shen­zhen and San Fran­cisco, HAX has in­cu­bated more than 130 star­tups and above 90 per­cent are in­ter­na­tional teams.

The HAX com­mu­nity helped Khan to find small con­trac­tors. “They are will­ing to do small and quick work for us, which is a big sup­port for star­tups,” he added.

“What cost us seven weeks and about 10,000 yuan ($1,480) to do in Canada, takes us three or four days to do it here and costs us about 2,000 yuan. Much cheaper and much faster,” he added.

How­ever, it was not low costs that attracts him the most, but “if you would like to spend a lit­tle bit more money, then you can get a re­ally good prod­uct,” he said.

“I love Shen­zhen be­cause, as an en­gi­neer, I like to make things,” he said, “and it is so easy to make new things here. Some­times I am bored and come up with a new idea, we can just make it.”

For ex­am­ple, he is work­ing on a smart base­ball that can record all mo­tion data. He is a huge base­ball fan and also teaches lo­cal chil­dren to play base­ball in Shen­zhen.

How­ever, he also no­ticed the down­side is that many young en­trepreneurs in Shen­zhen change their startup ideas too quickly as it is so easy to start a new project.

In ad­di­tion, he also loves the con­ve­nience brought by e-com­merce in China and he is so good at shop­ping on­line that he is con­sid­ered a “Taobao ex­pert” in the of­fice. When peo­ple in the HAX of­fice want to buy some­thing, they come to Khan.

“Though I know only a lit­tle bit Chi­nese, I have a re­ally good tech­nique on how to use Taobao, such as trans­lat­ing the page and find­ing the right words in Chi­nese to search for what I want,” he said.

Khan is just one of the for­eign en­trepreneurs in Shen­zhen, a city that has been vig­or­ously es­tab­lish­ing “China’s Sil­i­con Val­ley” with strong fi­nan­cial and pol­icy sup­port for star­tups. Khan’s team once won a com­pe­ti­tion or­ga­nized by the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties for a prize of 50,000 yuan.

In ad­di­tion, many in­ter­na­tional in­cu­ba­tors, such as the world fa­mous Fab­ri­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­tory (Fab Lab), have been es­tab­lished in the city, bring­ing more and more for­eign in­no­va­tive projects and teams.

Khan’s plan is to stay in China as long as he can. He al­ready teamed up with the lo­cal mold­ing as­so­ci­a­tion for long-term co­op­er­a­tion.

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