The Next Big Thing

China’s premier joins the start-up crowd at entrepreneurs' café in innovation push

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 9:38pm

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Beijing's start-up hub this morning, a fresh sign of support for the mainland's push to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

Li visited Inno Way, a street in the Zhongguancun Hi-Tech Development Zone that the city government took over last year to turn into a place for budding entrepreneurs.

Photographs on social media showed Li having a drink at 3W Coffee, the mainland's first crowdfunded start-up cafe that has recently been in the news for its ambitious plan to open 100 stores in 10 major cities across the mainland.

China’s leaders are promoting innovation in an attempt to reverse a slowdown in the economy and to promote restructuring. On Wednesday the State Administration of Taxation said it would cut unnecessary tax hurdles to support emerging industries and urged local tax authorities to properly implement tax relief measurse for start-ups.

Representatives for the coffee shop confirmed Li's visit, but declined to comment further.

3W was established in November 2010 with seed investments from about 180 investors. The most influential start-up born from the cafe so far is Lagou, a recruiting website for technology jobs.

Startup cafes are essentially co-working spaces with hotdesks and longer-term rental opportunities where anybody can walk in and just order a cup of coffee. What makes them different is they have become places where entrepreneurial minds bounce ideas off each other and can meet angel investors. Many of them operate as business incubators as well.

Inno Way was launched in June last year by the Haidian district government to turn a street formerly full of bookstores into dozens of incubators, internet cafes, funding and training institutions to help start-up entrepreneurs secure just about everything they need to build a business, from angel investment and free office space to media coverage and business partners.

Now some 10 three- to five-storey buildings housing hundreds of start-ups make up the street.

It represents an important change in the way the government and industry leaders approach innovation and creativity.

Rather than constructing more big projects like the Zhongguancun zone, the idea is to build a street reminiscent of those in Palo Alto or San Francisco, full of intimate places where people can talk about their ideas and aspirations.