American and Chinese emerging leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation met in Shenzhen, China, for the US-China Forum on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Economic Opportunity.
Seventeen black entrepreneurs and innovators were selected to participate in the program supported by the U.S. Department of State and the All-China Youth Federation, and directed by Arizona State University.
Airbnb co-founder Nate Blecharczyk, U.S. Ambassador to China – Terry Branstad, APlus Capital founder Sheng Xitai, and others shared their experiences with entrepreneurs during three days of programming in Shenzhen; China’s Silicon Valley. Shenzhen is home to Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent, smartphone maker Huawei, aircraft maker DJI, and many other innovative companies. The tech hub, located in southern China, benefits from Shenzhen’s special economic zone and close proximity to the manufacturing facilities at Guangdong.
During the trip, participants toured the Dongguan manufacturing facility in Guangdong Province. The Dongguan factories produce 30% of the world’s toys, 20% of the world’s smartphones, 10% of the world’s glasses and large numbers of other goods. The region is responsible for at least 12% of China’s total national economic output.
Seventeen African American entrepreneurs and innovators were selected to participate in the delegation of fifty participants from the United States. The largest African community in China lives in the Baohan Street, in the Southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Research from Chinese consumer giant Alibaba predicts that the Chinese consumer market will grow to $6.1 trillion by 2021; an almost 40% increase over 2016 numbers. This growth means incredible opportunity for both Chinese and international entrepreneurs.
After the forum, Black Enterprise contributor Brandon Andrews, who also attended, collected a series of quotes from these entrepreneurs on their thoughts and experiences of their time on China:
“I was looking forward to seeing China and meeting young entrepreneurs thriving in their perspective industries. China is a big draw to go to the place where everything is made.” —COSIGN co-founder Esosa Ighodaro
“I was definitely looking forward to learning ways to do business with our Chinese entrepreneurs. I also wanted to learn about the culture and how to garner respect there to foster and build meaningful relationships.” —The HR ER CEO LeShanda Miller Davis
“There were a lot of elements of black culture in China, from hip-hop, reggae, and R&B music to break dancing to clothing.” —KeepUp CEO Lauren Washington
“I was excited to see the amount of black professionals that were selected to attend.” —Asfalis Crisis Management CEO Vanessa Vaughn
“I plan to work with Chinese businesses that have top innovations in advanced manufacturing, 3-D printing, and the internet of things. It is my goal to form partnerships with minority-owned firms in these same areas to advance business growth.” —The Jamii Group co-founder, Demetria Gallagher
“I plan to work with another Chinese scientist to assist my partners and I with the development of a prototype portable technology to analyze plant-based medical products.” —AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Dominique Carter, Ph.D.
“My company recently signed an agreement for an R&D partnership with the third-largest private education company in China. We’ll be exploring and potentially co-developing innovations for both the Chinese and American market.” —Focus EDUVation CEO, Daniel Fountenberry
“A major part of China’s business culture is forming relationships and building trust to improve product and partnership success over the long term.” —The Motley Consulting Group CEO, Monica Motley
“The most important thing to do is understand the culture and to build relationships.” – Director, STEM Innovation at Johnson C. Smith University, Terik Tidwell
“Learn some [Chinese] phrases before you come.” —AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Ololade Fatunmbi
“If African Americans are going to decrease the wealth gap and have wealth to pass on to future generations, it will be accomplished by entering global markets.” – The Jamii Group co-founder, Isaac McCoy
“Traveling to China will open people’s eyes.” —Education Performance Group Managing Director, Samuel Roe