Connecting Maker Pros at x.factory — Shenzhen’s New Maker Hub

Last month, I took a walk with Eric Pan and Ivy Li from Seeed Studio in Shenzhen. We stepped into the flagship store of DJI, the world leader in consumer drone technology. As we ogled DJI’s lightest foldable model I asked Eric,

“Why did 3D Robotics fail and DJI succeed?”

Eric replied,

“3D Robotics had the Tijuana supply chain. DJI has the Shenzhen one.”

Shenzhen and its surroundings is where the world goes to build electronics. Much has been written about Shenzhen’s manufacturing prowess. But the big story in Shenzhen is innovation. It’s not new: For years Shanzhai have been remixing phones and more recently DJI has grown to dominate an entirely new class of consumer product.

What is new is x.factory. x.factory is a facility in a new area of Shenzhen with the mission of connecting Maker Pros from all over the world to the Shenzhen supply chain. The area is new because previously a mountain stood there. But Vanke, the largest real estate developer in China, literally moved that mountain into the sea to create more buildable real estate.

x.factory china

There’s a fully equipped maker space with the usual suite of machine tools and 3D printers and laser cutters. What’s special is its connection with the Chaihuo Maker Space, Seeed Studio’s Fusion prototyping service focused around IoT products, and the ecosystem of manufacturing expertise in the area.

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At x.factory’s soft launch in March were the usual suspects one expects at such events: some press, some officials, some sponsors. But I also ran into Eric Migicovsky, the founder of Pebble, working on his next product. Pebble’s launch on Kickstarter in 2012 raised $10MM, the largest Kickstarter campaign at the time. During its run, Pebble shipped over one million watches but ultimately shut down last year.

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x.factory is real. It opens for business this June and if you’re interested in getting involved you can email them at info@chaihuo.org. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a larger trend of innovators from all over the world migrating to manufacturing and supply chain hubs (not limited to electronics or even Shenzhen!).

Innovation is limited by iteration speed. And in the world of physical products, having a manufacturing supply chain close at hand means fast iteration in prototyping and manufacturing — a killer combination.