Why Startup Founders Should Spend Some Time in China

Going through a Shenzen-based hardware accelerator helped Bartesian build a better product faster

Written by Murad Hemmadi

Spending some time at an accelerator or incubator is now practically a rite of passage for ambitious startups. But while there are plenty of organizations willing to help you build your killer app or super service, hardware manufacturing-firms have a harder time finding help.

Bartesian is a Kitchener company offering a single-serve cocktail machine—a Keurig for fancy drinks. The company is currently currently engaged in a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign intended to fund the company’s first production run. Originally named MaxMixology, the startup emerged from the LaunchPad program that is part of Wilfrid Laurier University’s MBA program.

The Bartesian team spent four months at the start of this year at HAX, a hardware accelerator based in Shenzen, a city in southeast China. HAX’s location was just as important as the expertise and mentorship that the accelerator offered. “Most things are made in China these days, or at least the parts for them are,” observes Bryan Fedorak, co-founder of Bartesian. “In some way, your supply chain is almost certainly going to come from there.”

Here’s how the Bartesian team benefited from their time in China.

Create the possible

Crowdfunding campaigns have become notorious for over-promising and under-delivering, leaving backers angry and companies on the brink of collapse. Manufacturing problems are a common cause of this kind of failure—not every brilliant idea can be turned into a tangible product that consumers can use.

HAX allowed the Bartesian team to tailor their product design to what Chinese factories were capable of producing. “You’re visiting factories early on and designing with that mind,” explains Fedorak. “You’re not designing in a silo here in Kitchener or Waterloo.”

Reconfigure quickly

Fedorak first heard about the accelerator—from some fellow residents of the Waterloo-based Velocity Foundry incubator—not too longer before applications were set to close. To enter HAX, a startup must have a prototype of its product, and Bartesian had to speed up its development to make the cut.

Once in China, modifying its working model got a lot simpler. “Where our office was located, you could just go down to the building across the street and there’d be every component you could ever dream of,” Fedorak says. “Whatever you wanted, it was there, and you could physically go and look at them and say, €˜I want that.’ And it was really inexpensive.”

Easy access to parts made the prototyping process a lot faster. Fedorak estimates the team built four new models during its time in China.

Establish the basics

China is not an easy market to do business in, so it helps to get your learning in early. Fedorak appreciated the opportunity that HAX provided to see Chinese manufacturing in action. “You’re able to learn how the ecosystem works, learn manufacturing there, interact with the factories, and start setting up your [supply chain],” he explains. Being in-situ also allows you to understand what language and cultural barriers you’ll face once you’re back home and communicating with a factory half a world away.


Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com