Inside HAXLR8R, Shenzhen’s hardware startup incubator

Inside HAXLR8R, Shenzhen’s hardware startup incubator

SHARE

shenzhen-town2

See the original article in Japanese

Located just adjacent to Hong Kong, Shenzhen China is known as global manufacturing center, with an abundance of electronics manufacturers in particular. Even in the startups scene, Shenzhen is recognized as one of the best places to do be in the hardware business.

I recently had the opportunity to attend Infinity Venture Partners’ LP Summit. I’ll report on the interesting startups introduced during this event, but today I’d like to focus on HAXLR8R, the Shenzhen accelerator specializing in hardware startups. IVP has had a partnership with HAXLR8R and Dalian-based incubator Chinaccelerator for the last few years.

shenzhen-town1

It was nearly 20 years ago when I first visited Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Shenzhen has since grown to become the fourth biggest economic center in China, behind Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. HAXLR8R has its office conveniently located in the center of Shenzhen, high above street level on the 10th floor.

haxlr8r-entrance

We were welcomed by founder and the managing director Cyril Ebersweiler and general partner Benjamin Joffe. Cyril is also a venture partner at Ireland-based SOS Ventures, and many readers may remember Benjamin from his involvement with the futuristic space memorial service Elysium Space.

After entrepreneurs pass screening to join HAXLR8R, they have an opportunity to create a simple prototype in their first week. The aim of this process is to enhance communication with other members and with mentors as well. Participating entrepreneurs must create a prototype based on a given theme, and this creates an opportunity to meet other entrepreneur who they might collaborate with in the future.

The accelerator holds a demo day on the 30th, 60th, and 90th day for startups. Participants enhance their product and business based on feedback from other entrepreneurs and investors in attendance.

In order to prevent others from building copycats, the details of the products currently being built are not disclosed. So regrettably, I can’t go into details about the startups and products that I saw there on this trip. But on the plus side, I could speak with a startup from the accelerator’s previous batch. The American startup Helios develops a sort of bike navigation system and corresponding iOS app. You just input a destination, and then the flashing lights on the handlebars will the rider to the destination.

Helios
Helios

HAXLR8R オフィスから見える深圳市街。大気汚染が心配なところが、Benjamin によれば、サンフランシスコよりも空気はキレイらしい。
City view from HAXLR8R. We tend to worry about the air pollution in China, but according to Benjamin, the air in Shenzhen is cleaner than in San Francisco.

HAXLR8R also coordinates with local manufacturing services for participants. So some startups stay in Shenzhen (including Helios) even after the incubation program. The accelerator occupies the 10th and 11th floor of the building, with startups and administrative staff on the 11th, and the 10th reserved for events and startups alumni.

haxlr8r-inside2

Almost half of the participating startups are from the US, with the remainder from Europe and Asia. From the two past batches of startups, the only Japanese startup has been Sassor, a company developing its so-called Energy Literacy Platform [1].

Cyril and Benjamin have both lived in Japan before, and both are fluent in Japanese and strongly hope that more Japanese hardware startups can come join their incubation program. The next batch will start on July 16th, and the application deadline is on May 25th. If you have strong interest in hardware, this would be great opportunity. The application form can be found here.


  1. We will follow up with a report on Sassor’s HAXLR8R experience in the near future. ↩