Speaking of Huaqiangbei, probably no tech-savvy person would say they've never heard of the place, which is often referred to as China's No. 1 Electronics Street and a destination for makers.
But for Kevin Arvidson, an American, it’s more than an electronics hub where ideas can become prototypes and prototypes become products; it’s his starting place to kickstart a business in Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China.
Arvidson was the first foreigner to open a booth in Huaqiangbei. He came to Shenzhen in 2012 and had heard about Shenzhen and Huaqiangbei before he set foot in the city.
“Shenzhen is described as a dreamland because you can get these little components for these little pieces. You can get them in two minutes in Huaqiangbei,” he added.
Arvidson depicted another scenario when he was in desperate need of a hardware component in the United States. “But if you’re doing that in a university in Chicago, you’re writing emails and making phone calls and it could take a month or two to get that little piece. It’s holding up your beta project.”
Arvidson said he was shocked by how modern and clean the city was when he came to Shenzhen. The second discovery was how local traders and manufacturers had impressed him in terms of communication.
“I was expecting to have a problem communicating. But I was very pleasantly surprised with their English level and the fact that they knew pretty much what I wanted before I even started talking,” Arvidson said.
As the first expatriate who opened a booth in Huaqiangbei, Arvidson said he was astounded that there weren’t many challenges to the opening of a booth on the famed electronic street, as all the procedures and formalities were well-guided.
Arvidson is now the CEO of ZED Tech, a machine learning as a service (MLaaS) company located in the Futian Bonded Zone.
“We transition from making hardware to software research and development and we create models and algorithms for larger companies who don’t have a big engineering team,” Arvidson explained.
Having lived in the city for eight years, Arvidson said his favorite change of the city is the electric taxis and the electric public transportation, which he described as a truly unbelievable change.
“It’s great for the city because it has become an example of the success of China. If China can do that, why doesn’t America have electric taxis? Surely, America should also follow suit and do that.”
Arvidson was also very impressed by the people in Shenzhen. “So there’s a saying in Chinese: When you come to Shenzhen, you’re a Shenzhener. I would consider Shenzhen my home now.”
Arvidson said he wishes for Shenzhen to not slow down and keep the “Shenzhen Speed.” He also suggests those who want to start a business in Shenzhen to put it into action. “If you have an idea and have something that you want to accomplish, there’s nothing holding you back except for yourself.”