PlayTable’s China Trip

WOW, going to China was such a great experience. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun, which is what I think differentiates startup experiences from traditional work. All in all, we spent about two and half weeks in Eastern Asia: 3 days first in Taiwan , and then 2 weeks in mainland China, traveling between many different cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

Obviously to manufacture a hardware product, we’d have to visit the manufacturing capital of the world — Shenzhen. As I learned, the economic stimulus of global manufacturing and distribution practically built the entire city overnight. Workers from all over China flocked to Shenzhen and some factories resemble small cities.

We took some tours of a few facilities, and got to see in-person who would potentially be assembling PlayTables. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything quite like a tier 1 manufacturing facility. We learned things like who’s responsible for component sourcing, got a sense for the NRE (non-recurring engineering) expenses, production timelines, vacation policies, max possible monthly volumes, and so on. All in all, I’m pretty confident in being able to find a factory in Shenzhen that would be able to handle our required volumes. Not surprisingly, facilities that were well-equipped to produce large-surface TVs (as opposed to tablets), were the best fit.

If Shenzhen is the place for hardware, what were we doing in the other cities, you ask? Well, we were mostly scouting for software houses and scoping out the lay of the land for the Chinese economy. China is quickly closing the gap for economic strength with the US, and has succeeded mostly by copying innovations that happen over here. Safe to say that if a trend is happening in the US, it’ll soon happen in China. The amount of software infrastructure the Chinese government was able to put together in a decade is really astounding, with some cities looking and feeling like exact replicas of Silicon Valley (the place and the show).

As it turns out, development studios in China are actually very good quality. The immense popularity of mobile games sets it apart from the US — when everyone has a smartphone, mobile games outpace other solutions like PC or consoles. I was also impressed with the art and animation production quality some firms were able to put out. We got a similar reaction from Chinese studios as US ones, and plenty were excited for the potentials of PlayTable and what kind of new game development opportunities it presents.

After covering a lot of ground in China, we’re back in the US with a new perspective on globalization and its effects. Safe to say we can approach PlayTable with a more worldly sense and have even more resources at hand to successfully deliver PlayTable.

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