In a buzzing cafe at the center of Beijing's tech hub Zhongguangcun, ideas are being incubated as budding entrepreneurs meet with investors to see their visions realized.
Garage Cafe, known in Chinese as "Cheku Cafe," stands on the second floor of a hotel in Zhongguancun. Humming with activity, the cafe is regularly filled with ambitious business people working on creative ideas for start-ups.
A whole day can be spent in the cafe for the cost of a single cup of coffee. The first person to arrive at the shop when it opens in the morning receives a free cup.
Liu Zhixiong has been coming to the cafe since his business was nothing more than a concept. He is now CEO of Haogougou, a social networking website designed especially for pet-owners."I was a member of the cafe's first club in 2012," Liu said. "Garage Cafe offers two important things for start-ups. First, it provides a space for us to meet and help each other out so we don't have to go it alone. In addition, it provides us with opportunities to meet investors."
The cafe was founded in 2011 by Su Di, an investor who was having a hard time finding suitable start-ups to invest in. He decided to create a place where entrepreneurs could work together in a comfortable environment. The cafe's name is drawn from U.S. companies like Amazon and Google who got their start in garages.
Jin Zisen, CEO of Garage Cafe, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that they designed the cafe as a platform for start-ups to find all the necessary resources and help they need. They began offering assistance with company registration, financial support, investment, tutelage and patent information.
"We are also home to a community where start-ups can meet and help each other. In fact, some of the most successful projects came not from singular ideas, but were the outcome of brainstorming between entrepreneurs," Jin said. "The core spirit of Garage Cafe is helping each other."
About 300 start-up projects have been successfully hatched at the cafe over the last three years. The cafe even caught the attention of Lu Wei, director of the China Internet Network Information Center, who visited it on Dec. 1 before making a trip to the United States.
In the cafe, Lu listened to the stories of young entrepreneurs and spoke of his experiences to students at the University of Washington as an example of how the Internet is bringing immense opportunities to China.
As the cafe continues to be a popular destination for entrepreneurs and investors, it speaks for the rising popularity of entrepreneurship in China.
"In China, the general environment for starting one's own business is much better than it was years ago," said Liu. "Here in Zhongguancun, start-ups are common. They used to be scattered around in different places, but now places like Zhongguancun connect start-ups from around the country, just like Silicon Valley in the United States."
The year 2014 saw China's economy developing into a "new normal" state that focuses on a sustainable growth pattern driven by innovation, making places like Garage Cafe even more important in terms of boosting the country's economic development.
"The times are changing. We will try our best to diversify our offerings to cater to more specific needs. We will also make our services more systematic," Jin said. "At Garage Cafe, our most important consideration is not making money. It is making what we do more valuable to our customers." Enditem