LANZHOU — After almost ten years in Beijing, Wei Wei, 35, has returned to his hometown of Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu province.
“I’ve gained skills and experiences in Beijing, and I can help bring Beijing’s business practices to the west,” said the self-confessed IT geek. “The IT market in my hometown is full of potential and very attractive to me.”
Wei and his friends opened a business in 2014, but was soon in trouble as IT skills do not equate to business acumen.
One year later, the government started its support for mass entrepreneurship and innovation and “incubators” emerged, offering workspace and business advice to eager would-be executives.
In Gansu, more than 1,200 college teams have joined incubators, each receiving an average investment of around 300,000 yuan ($45,000) by April.
Incubator Chuanshuo Cafe opened in Lanzhou in April 2015 and provides a range of training and services. With Chuanshuo’s help, Wei’s problems were soon resolved. His company was registered, he has his own offices and a steady flow of customers. His company has an order to develop a mobile app for online payment platform Guaniu.
After working in Shanghai, Zhou Jianzhen has also headed back home to Lanzhou and set up an online store selling local specialties. With the incubator’s help, he now has more than 80 suppliers and made sales worth 5 million yuan in the second half of last year.
“Incubators, policy and support are bringing people to their hometowns. Business opportunities in east China are shrinking and the potential of here is now sucking talent back west,” said Chuanshuo’s CEO Li Guoliang.
Deng Yubo, who quit as a college teacher and started an online beef noodle company believes the biggest difficulties entrepreneurs face are their own impatience and high costs, but incubators can help remove those obstacles. “Incubators provide for us with government resources, capital and services, which are usually difficult to find by ourselves. Affordable offices and services have slashed costs and created an easy environment for business.”
Last month, the first incubator opened in Tibet, in the regional capital Lhasa. In Qinghai, the government has set aside 50 million yuan each year for three consecutive years to support college graduates to start businesses.
Yuan Chun of Lanzhou University believes that incubators are attracting talent. “Business models and fresh ideas brought by young start-ups are a strong incentive to economic development in the western part of China,” he said.