Touring Shenzhen: China's manufacturing hub


What was once a small fishing town is now the manufacturing hub of China. Coined as ‘Asia’s Silicon Valley’, Shenzhen city is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and is considered to be the global epicentre of electronics. That’s no surprise when you consider that the city was built with that exact purpose in mind.

Shenzhen cityscape
Shenzhen city

While there’s an insatiable desire to buy gadgets globally, most people don’t actually know where their electronics come from, nor how they are made. Well, the chances are that those electronics are manufactured in Shenzhen.


Unsurprisingly Shenzhen’s flourishing ecosystem is a breeding ground for tech. Giants like Huawei, ZTE, and Tencent were born locally and the city’s famous innovation area, Nanshan, is home to 156 listed companies.


What separates the city as a world leader is its uniqueness: it contains every essential element required for electronic production. It’s also home to Huaqiangbei, which covers 21 million square meters and is the largest electronics market in the world.


For all of Shenzhen’s advantages, there are challenges. Those who wish to manufacture at one of the city’s thousands of factories will likely come up against roadblocks. Complexities, confusion, and cultural differences are just some factors at play. Finding the right manufacturer to produce the desired products, with the correct components and ability to scale, is not for the faint-hearted.


For entrepreneurs ready to manufacture electronics, a tour of Shenzhen is not only a dream-come-true: it’s an essential building block for business success.

In 2017 HardworX, which helps growth-stage startups and SMEs scale their operations by demystifying manufacturing and the hardware supply chain, led a group of eleven engineers, entrepreneurs, and startup founders to tour Shenzhen. The tour invited hardware professionals to engage and understand Shenzhen, break down some of the barriers to entry, and learn essential skills for manufacturing at scale.


Tour group Shenzhen 2017
The HardworX Shenzhen 2017 tour group

The HardworX Shenzhen tour group consisted of tour leader Vela Georgiev, participants Andy Gelme, Brian Gilbert, Jon Oxer, Kemal Ajay, Liam Brennan, Noor Magesh, Sarah Last, Tom Partridge, Simon Holmes a Court, Hans Chang, and Karl von Möller.



Vela Georgiev, founder of HardworX, has 15+ years of industry experience in dealing with Asian suppliers, and managing relationships with global manufacturing supply chains. This meant she was the perfect person to lead a tour of professionals to China. The year prior, Vela organised a six-week personal study tour to expand her knowledge of the Chinese startup ecosystem. She visited Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing.


‘I was blown away by how connected the community was and how willing they were to engage with an outsider around hardware startups’, says Vela. ‘I discovered the nuances of Shenzhen's ecosystem and how Australian companies can better innovate with China.’


The tour was run as a community-driven, not-for-profit event, designed to share knowledge, demystify manufacturing and help Australian companies innovate. Fortunately, factories across Shenzhen were eager to host the tour group, share their knowledge and experience, and even allowed the group to document their experiences for the benefit of others.


Thus began an intensive on-the-ground week touring accelerators, Huaqiangbei electronics markets, factories, and maker spaces to discover Shenzhen’s unique ecosystem.


HardworX were pleased to have cinematographer, filmmaker and electronics enthusiast Karl von Möller join the tour to document the experience. Karl created an in-depth documentary series, which accompanies this blog series.


Cinematographer, filmmaker and electronics enthusiast Karl von Möller join the tour to document the experience. Karl created an in-depth documentary series, which accompanies this blog series.



HardworX would like to thank all those who made the tour possible, and in particular:

  • Karl von Möller for his passion and dedication in producing this documentary series. The entire documentary episode list can be viewed here.

  • All of the factories for welcoming the tour group, spending time, and sharing knowledge. To view a list of the factories visited, click here.

The HardworX Shenzhen Innovation 2017 tour group consisted of tour leader Vela Georgiev, participants Andy Gelme, Brian Gilbert, Jon Oxer, Kemal Ajay, Liam Brennan, Noor Magesh, Sarah Last, Tom Partridge, Simon Holmes a Court, Hans Chang, and Karl von Möller.



Related videos


The HardworX Shenzhen Innovation Tours are a curated and immersive experience designed to provide insights into the Shenzhen hardware ecosystem and what it takes to design and deliver a hardware product at scale. This short video gives a taste of the 2018 tour experience.